In the virtual setting, the way we make questions needs to be reconsidered to meet the restrictions of the learning environment. However, verbal questioning strategies will differ among online courses, depending on the type of online platform being used.
If students and teachers only interact through digital files and text, effective questioning strategies must be employed through message boards, discussion posts, and course materials. In these cases, teachers need to be careful when wording prompts and planning questioning patterns to ensure that questions address all levels of cognitive skill and difficulty.
In addition to applying cognitive levels to their questioning strategies, teachers of online courses that do have a live, interactive video component may have additional tools that are useful in questioning students. In particular, many online educational platforms offer a number of features that can be used to facilitate questioning, both during and after live class sessions including interactive screens, breakout sessions, live streaming, data reporting, polling, and related engagement tools, and more.
It is important to differentiate between lower-order and higher order thinking skills kinds of questions. The questions, which have an anticipated response and do not require original thought on the part of the student, are usually convergent, lower-order questions. They are usually ‘what’ questions that require 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 favored with divergent, or ‘open,’ questions, which have a number of possible responses and demand both reasoning and creative thinking from the students. Divergent, higher-order questions often ask students ‘why’ or ‘how’ and force students to think more critically about the subject.
By understanding cognitive levels and the importance of addressing a variety of thinking skills in verbal questioning, traditional and online teachers are better equipped to apply more effective questioning techniques in the classroom. For the online teacher developing online courses, this knowledge—paired with any specific online educational features they might use to apply it—will make verbal questioning the most useful pedagogical tool in their toolkit.