Audience Response Questions
Tactics for Directing Attention and Raising Awareness
- Tactic#1: Remove nonessential
Removing nonessential from a question is a general and obvious tactic for focusing students’ attention where we want it. This means removing everything that can cause distraction in the way of answering the question. For example, quantitative calculations in a qualitative question are considered a distraction.
- Tactic#2: Compare and Contrast
When students are required to compare two things their attention is directed to finding differences between them. For example, the instructor can pose a question that compares different situations to categorize or order them.
- Tactic#3: Extend the context
This tactic encompasses the idea of constructing new knowledge on the known (old) one. By asking a familiar question about an unfamiliar situation, students’ attention is drawn to the ways in which the new situation differs from known ones and to the relevance of these differences. This broadens students’ understanding of the concept beyond the limited scope that they initially encountered.
- Tactic#4: Reuse familiar question scenarios
This means building new questions from situations and systems students have already come to understand. This reduces the “cognitive load” and helps to stay focused on points we want to make with the questions. In general, new ideas should be introduced in familiar question contexts, while somewhat familiar ideas should be developed in novel contexts.
- Tactic#5: Oops-go-back
This tactic consists of two questions: the first one is a trap, that often misleads students to the wrong answer. The instructor moves to the next question without much discussion. The second question causes students to realize their mistake on the first question.
Tactics for Stimulating Cognitive Process
- Tactic#1: Interpret representations
This tactic is more applicable for physics students to use other representations such as graphs, free body, vector diagrams, and even verbal body instead of algebraic representations. The tactic is implemented by providing necessary information or answer options in an alternative representation.
- Tactic#2: Compare and contrast
This tactic has a lot of benefits for not only directing students’ attention but also for stimulating cognitive processes. Comparing and contrasting reveals the similarities and differences and leads to new cognitive processes.
- Tactic#3: Extend the context
Extending the context of a known idea or skill is a habit of mind and also a valuable question design tactic. A question designed from familiar situations helps to find the answers by broadening students’ comprehension of the relevant ideas.
- Tactic#4: Identify a set or a subset
According to this tactic students are presented with a set of situations, objects, or processes and asked to identify a set or subset meeting some criterion.
- Tactic#5: Rank variants
According to this tactic students are again presented with some situations, objects, or processes and asked to rank variants according to some quality.
- Tactic#6: Reveal a better way
The instructor presents a question to students who are likely to solve it by a valid but difficult and opaque path. Then, during the discussion, he suggests a dramatically more elegant or simple solution.
- Tactic#7: Strategize only
The tactic is implemented by presenting a problem and asking students to identify the principle and approach that would be most useful for reaching a solution, without actually solving the problem.
- Tactic#8: Include extraneous information
Extraneous information will help to push students to consider explicitly what information is necessary to complete a strategy, rather than assuming every question provides exactly what is required and nothing more.
- Tactic#9: Omit necessary information
This tactic serves to develop the same habits of mind as Tactic#8, that is by omitting the necessary information, we stimulate students’ cognitive thinking.
Tactics for Formative use of Response Data
- Tactic#1: Answer choices reveal likely difficulties
To provide maximally useful information to the instructor, questions should be designed so that answer choices reveal likely student difficulties including common errors, misunderstandings, and alternative assumptions and interpretations. After the results are submitted the instructor can look at the histogram and quickly detect which errors are prevalent and decide whether to address them or not.
- Tactic#2: Use “none of the above”
This tactic uses “none of the above” or “not enough information” as an answer choice, so as to learn about the responses we might not have anticipated. It is advised to make this the “correct” or best answer often enough that students learn to take it seriously.
Tactics for Promoting Articulation, Conflict, and Productive Discussion
- Tactic#1: Include qualitative question
Quantitative questions direct students’ thinking in terms of numbers and variables, that are difficult to communicate and make discussion. Qualitative questions promote discussion in terms of concepts, ideas, and general relationships.
- Tactic#2: Use analysis and reasoning questions
These types of questions lead to better discussion and more valuable articulation. They require significant decision-making by students and also promote the development of analytical skills.
- Tactic#:3 Include questions with multiple defensible answers
Such questions generate dissension and lead to productive discussion. This tactic supposes more than one correct answer depending on how the instructor wants to format the question.
- Tactic#4: Implement questions that require unstated assumptions
This tactic not only promotes disagreement and therefore profitable discussion, but also helps students to become able to do multiple interpretations possible in many situations.
- Tactic#5: Implement questions trolling for misconceptions
This tactic supposes including misconceptions into the questions so as to help students become aware of and escape the particular misconception, improving their knowledge. It furthers the metacognitive goal of putting students on the alert for misconceptions in general.
Extracted from “Designing effective questions for classroom response system teaching” by Beatty, Gerace, Leonar, and Dufresne, (2006), American Association of Physic Teachers, 74, 1.)