Discussion Questions Tips

Writing Discussion Questions

The Basics

  • Avoid asking questions that prompt a repeating of explicit information in the text. Formulate questions that have no easy answer, and ones that can be interpreted through various perspectives.
  • Try asking open-ended rather than simple yes/no, right/wrong questions. 
  • Compare, contrast, and look for connections between articles assigned on a given day with each other or with past articles assigned for class.
  • Look for gaps in authors’ reasoning or statements that you find problematic.
  • Think about the broader issues that the author’s arguments point to. What are the broader implications?
  • Look for connections between theoretical pieces assigned and concrete actions that can be taken to put them in practice.
  • Consider connections to current events/issues.

A Deeper Dive

Using a technique called “guided peer questioning,” provide a series of generic question stems that serve as cognitive prompts to trigger or stimulate different forms of critical thinking:

  • “What are the implications of ____?”
  • “Why is ____ important?”
  • “What is another way to look at ____?” 

Analyze or break down/dissect information into its component parts  to detect the relationship among the parts or the relationship between the parts and the whole:

  • What are the most important/significant ideas or elements of ____? (Prioritization)
  • What assumptions/biases underlie or are hidden within ____? (Deconstruction)
  • What parts of ____ would be similar to/different than ____? (Compare and Contrast) 

Synthesize or connect separate pieces of information to form a larger, more coherent pattern:

  • How can this idea be combined with ________ to create a more compete or comprehensive understanding of ___? (Integration)
  • How can these different ideas be grouped together into a more general category? (Classification)
  • How can these separate ____ be reorganized or rearranged to produce a more comprehensive understanding of the “big picture?”

Evaluate or critically judge the validity (truth), morality (ethics), or aesthetic (artistic) value of ideas, data, or products by using relevant assessment criteria (standards for judging quality):

  • How would you judge the accuracy or validity of ____?
  • How would you evaluate the ethical (moral) implications or consequences of ____? 

Inductive Thinking or infer (derive or draw out) well-reasoned generalizations or principles from individual instances or specific examples:

  • What are the broader implications of ____?
  • What patterns or themes emerge from ____?
  • What can be extrapolated or extended from this particular ____ that may have more general or universal value? 

Adductive Thinking or making a case for an argument or position by accumulating supporting evidence in the form of logical arguments (rational thinking) or research evidence (empirical reasoning):

  • What proof exists for ___?
  • What are logical arguments for ___?
  • What research evidence supports ____?  

Multiple Perspective-Taking or viewing an issue from a variety of viewpoints, standpoints, or positions in order to gain a more comprehensive and holistic understanding:

  • How would people from different ethnic or racial groups view this ___?
  • How would people from different socioeconomic backgrounds be affected by ____? 
  • How would people who differ in age or gender react to ____?

See this guide for discussion questions or more tips.

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