Faculty today

Assessment for learning: The art of asking good questions


This is the sixth post in our Assessment for Learning (AfL) series as we anticipate Beyond Grading: Effective Assessment Strategies for Better Learning, a McGill University symposium taking place on December 7, 2018.

One of the most novel assignments I’ve encountered was within the context of an English conference. Each of the students was responsible for leading one conference, presenting our analysis of a text and then facilitating discussion. Besides the usual apprehension towards presenting, I found it particularly challenging to develop good questions for discussion. I wanted questions to prompt my peers to synthesize what we’d learned and generate new ideas. Questions also had to be crafted so that they allowed adequate time to be explored within the allotted time. To pose an interesting question, I really had to take the time to thoughtfully engage with the content. Through developing my question for the conference, I explored my own responses to questions and critically reflected on my own knowledge. This assignment was particularly well- suited for conferences, but student-generated questions can be used in a variety of settings.

Fellow grad student Simone Tissenbaum accompanied me on an expedition through McGill University’s downtown and Macdonald campuses to ask students about the types of assignments that have really helped them learn. One student shared with us their experience with student-generated questions. For each assignment, the instructor required that students answer one instructor-generated question and one student-generated question. The student commented that the assignment meant they had to thoroughly review their notes, which made them “think of things [they] wouldn’t have thought of.” Listen to what the student says.

Assessment for Learning (AfL) strategy: Having students create questions can afford insight into how well students understand course content, but creating stimulating and meaningful questions can be a challenge for students, as well as instructors. Read about creating questions designed to promote “thinking, understanding, and learning” in The Art of Asking Questions and get ideas for integrating questions into teaching in How to Use Questions to Promote Student Learning.

Beyond Grading: Effective Assessment Strategies for Better Learning – December 7, 2018

Do you teach at McGill University? You’re invited to a symposium where we will engage our community of instructors in learning about creative and effective assessment strategies to help improve students’ learning and motivation to learn, and inform teaching practices. View the symposium program and register to attend.

Check out the other posts in the Assessment for Learning series:

Kira Smith is an MA student in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University. She received her BA in English and Philosophy from McGill in 2017 and has been working as a project assistant at Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) since. An avid unicyclist and voracious reader of pretty much anything, Kira enjoys good chats about student affairs and TLS coffee.

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