Ask learner-centered questions

All good investigative work begins with the asking of important, relevant, and significant questions. This is also how Scholarship of Teaching and Learning work begins. But suppose that you do not know what questions to ask, or what constitutes a significant question, or how to ask important questions. Because most of us did not receive training in graduate school on how to ask teaching/learning questions, this may be new territory for many of us. Here are a few suggestions for getting you started asking significant questions. Typically, the more practice you have asking teaching/learning questions, the easier it becomes.

Think about the goals you have for your students’ learning, and formulate those goals into researchable questions:

Goal: Help students to better understand a difficult idea or concept

  1. How do students understand this concept?
  2. What are the misperceptions students have about this concept?
  3. Why do students have difficulty with this concept?
  4. How can I help students better understand this concept?

Goal: Help students to be more creative thinkers

  1. What does it mean to be a creative thinker?
  2. How would I know if a student was being creative?
  3. How do students understand creative thinking?
  4. Why do students have difficulty doing creative thinking?

Goal: Help students to learn how to use feedback on their assignments so as to make the follow-up assignment better

  1. How do students use feedback?
  2. Do students know how to use feedback effectively?
  3. How do students understand the concept of feedback?
  4. Does using feedback result in more effective student learning?

Think about the problems you are encountering with your teaching or students’ learning, and reformulate these into researchable questions:

Problem: Students ask the same questions about the same theory over and over

  1. How do students understand this theory?
  2. Why don’t students understand this theory?
  3. How can students relate this theory to something they do understand?
  4. How can I help students better learn this theory? How will I know if they have learned it?

Problem: Students are not participating in class discussion

  1. How do students understand/view participation?
  2. Why are students not participating in discussion? Why are students participating in discussion?
  3. How are the questions being asked linked to the quality of student participation?
  4. Do students see participation as a form of learning, or a waste of time? What are students’ attitudes toward participation

Problem: Students are not able to apply concepts/theories to real-world contexts

  1. Do students learn through application?
  2. Why do students have difficulty applying concepts/theories to real-world contexts?
  3. How do students understand the activity of “application?”
  4. How can I help students learn how to do effective application of concepts/theories?

Think about questions you have about your teaching or your students’ learning, and formulate those into researchable questions

How do students view group participation, and how does that impact their learning?
How can we help students learn to think critically?
How is creativity related to student learning?
How do students draw on their prior knowledge to learn about new information or new ideas?
How do students' interactions with each other and with teachers affect their learning?