Encourage critical thinking in online technology courses Canada Education


contributed by Rosa Fattahi, WizIQ

Since the early days of the philosopher Socrates, asking questions has been a critical part of the teaching and learning process.

The well-known question-and-answer technique that Socrates used with his students showed how well dialogue and discourse work to stimulate students, stimulate more complex thinking and help them learn. For educators, verbal questions also help to promote a sense of community in the classroom and involve the students in the classroom process. In order to maintain an active dialogue in the classroom and promote student participation, it is important that teachers understand and use effective questioning techniques.

Questions are invaluable teaching aids that fulfill many functions in the teaching and learning process. Teachers use questions for many reasons, e.g. B .:

  • Assess knowledge and learning

  • Encourage students to clarify, expand, and support their needs

  • Instruct students to participate in discussions or debates

  • Encourage students to question their own thought process or considerations

  • Apply class concepts to real-world scenarios

Verbal questioning is one of the most common educational tools, perhaps after the lecture. However, the art of good interviewing practices that allow students to think in a more complex, higher order requires time and planning. In addition, effective questioning techniques have to be restructured for online teachers according to the technological medium of the course.

Effective asking addresses a range of cognitive skills

It is important that traditional and online teachers use a variety of question types that address a range of intellectual skills.

Questions should not only be used to assess students’ understanding of the material, but also to help students expand their thinking and creativity skills by connecting ideas and applying concepts to the real world. For teachers, this means first of all having a clear understanding of the hierarchy of lower to higher order intellectual skills and then using questioning techniques in the classroom that cover the entire spectrum.

Bloom’s taxonomy is the most commonly used framework to understand the hierarchy of intellectual skills that students demonstrate. For an effective classroom survey, teachers should ask questions about each category. The following is Bloom’s taxonomy, listed from lowest to highest order of thinking skills, including example verb prompts that can be used to display each skill:

  • Knowledge = basic reminder of information or data, whereby questions often begin with words such as defining, listing or repeating

  • Understanding = Show a deeper understanding of the meaning of a concept, with questions often beginning with words such as describing, explaining or identifying

  • Application = Using a learned concept to solve a problem or situation, where questions begin with words such as demonstrating, predicting or solving

  • Analysis = explaining the components of a concept, dividing up to differentiate between facts and assumptions, questions starting with words such as deriving, comparing / contrasting or relating

  • Synthesis = combining the parts of a concept to form an original, creative idea or to solve a problem in a new, useful way, starting with words such as creating, developing or planning

  • Assessment = independent assessment of the value, benefit or strength of learned ideas or concepts, where questions begin with words such as assessment, interpretation or selection

Lower or higher order thinking skills & convergent vs. divergent question types

The classification of question types in the Bloom hierarchy was also divided into two groups: lower and higher order cognitive skills.

Lower-order cognitive skills are encouraged through questions that ask students to show their knowledge and understanding of concepts. In general, such lower-order intellectual skills can be refined with convergent or “closed” questions that have an expected answer and do not require the student’s original thoughts. Lower order convergent questions are usually “what” questions that require a basic recall and explanation.

On the other hand, higher-order cognitive skills are seen in answering questions that require application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. These skills are best encouraged by deviating or “open” questions that have a number of possible answers and require both argumentation and creative thinking from students. Different higher-order questions often ask students why or how and force students to think more critically about the topic.

Too often, teacher questions focus on the first or second, lower level of cognition and ask questions that do not encourage students to think for themselves, apply their newly acquired knowledge, or develop original ideas. Instead, teachers need to test their questioning techniques in advance to ensure that they use simple, convergent questions, as well as more complex, divergent questions, to address all levels of cognitive skills. Overall, however, the focus should be on asking higher-order questions that require more developed thinking skills, better challenge students, and help them grow intellectually.

Apply cognitive variations to questions in the online classroom

In the virtual environment of the online classroom, the questioning techniques have to be restructured in order to meet the limitations of the environment. However, the verbal questioning strategies differ depending on the type of online platform used between the online courses.

For example, many online courses do not have live teacher-student interaction, so students and teachers only interact through digital files and text. Such online courses require effective questioning strategies via message boards, discussion contributions and course materials. The challenge for teachers of such courses is to formulate prompts and plan question patterns to ensure that the questions cover all levels of cognitive ability and difficulty.

Online course teachers who have an interactive live video component can apply not only cognitive levels to their survey strategies, but also additional tools that are helpful when surveying students. In particular, many online educational platforms offer a number of features that can be used to ask questions during and after live class sessions, including interactive screens, breakout sessions, live streaming, data reporting, surveys and related engagement tools, and more.

By understanding the cognitive levels and the importance of considering a variety of verbal questioning skills, traditional and online teachers are better able to use more effective questioning techniques in the classroom. For the online teacher who develops online courses, this knowledge – coupled with certain online educational functions that he may use – makes oral questions the most useful educational tool in his toolkit.

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