Student-generated questions and collaborative answers (T-BLE)

I’m taking a three-week blended course in teaching a blended course, and for our last task in week 2, we were asked to come up with a collaborative activity for our blended learning module. We were to include:

  • introduction and instructions for students, including the rationale for the activity
  • grading criteria, if it’s to be graded
  • thoughts about possible problems that might arise and how we might address them

Basics about the activity

In one of the sections for this week there was an example of an instructor who asks students to come up with questions about the course material and submit them to the instructor, who then chooses questions based on the learning objectives and adds more if necessary to make sure all the learning objectives of a particular section of the course are covered. She then asks students to work together to answer these questions in groups. I think this is a great idea, to allow students to both seek help on things that they are having difficulty with, and also come up with questions that test others’ knowledge. So I’m going to do a version of that.

Introduction: student-generated questions and collaborative answers [text for the students]

As part of our exploration of Stoicism, and as a way to help you study for an upcoming exam, we’re going to engage in an activity where students generate questions about the material and work together to answer those created by others. There are several purposes for and benefits of this activity:

  • This gives a chance for you to ask questions of each other clarify things that you don’t quite understand (which is helpful for studying for the exam!)
  • It allows you to raise issues for discussion that are meaingful to you
  • It gives you a chance to teach something to other students (a great way to learn material)

Instructions [text for the students]

This activity will take place both face-to-face and online, through the following steps.

1. First, you will need to generate some questions on your own that you would like to ask other students in the class. Write down at least two questions and bring them to class with you on [date].

  • These questions could either be things you don’t understand well yourself and that you’d like help with, or things that you think you do understand but that might be challenging for others. Ideally they should be fairly complex questions, not ones you can answer with a simple “yes” or “no,” or that are merely a matter of memorizing facts from the texts or lecture. For example, you might ask questions that have to do with one or more of the following:
    • aspects of the material that are either complicated enough to possibly cause confusion or that could be interpreted in more than one way
    • applications of the material to a particular ethical issue or action
    • comparisons/contrasts of a view with another view we have studied

2. On [date], you will meet in your small groups in class, face-to-face, and share your questions with each other. If there are questions that involve things that some students aren’t sure about, discuss together what you think the answer might be. Then, together, the group will choose two questions that they want another group to answer. Again, these could be questions about things the group isn’t sure about themselves, or about things the group thinks they know, but also believes are likely to be challenging for others.

  • Write these two questions down and submit to Christina at the end of the activity (or submit on the course website if someone has a computer with them).
  • Also submit the questions that you wrote down yourself and brought to class (can also be submitted electronically on the course website).

3.¬†Christina will choose among the questions enough for each group to have one to discuss that they themselves have not written. She will distribute these to each group online, in the group’s discussion area. From [date] to [date], each member of the group should contribute to a discussion of a possible answer. You’ll need to come to an agreement on an answer by [date]. Your group should post your answer on the course wiki, under your assigned question [give URL for where to type in the answer, here].

4. After you’ve answered the question assigned to your group, go the question on the wiki that your group originally asked and see what the other group said. Each group member should also comment on that group’s answer to your group’s question: do you agree/disagree? Anything to add?

To make your comment, just write your name under the other group’s answer and make your comment after your name.

  • If you disagree, explain why.
  • If you agree, it’s best if you can do more than just say so; say if there’s something in that group’s answer that is particularly helpful, such as the way they explained something, or an example they gave.
  • If you have anything to add, of course, add it!

Grading for the activity

This activity will be marked on a scale of 0 to 2, or 0, minus, plus:

  • plus (2 marks):
    • you submitted at least two individual questions in step 1 that conform to the criteria in step 1
    • you contributed substantively to the discussion of your group’s answer to the assigned question in step 2 (more than just “yes, I agree,” for example)
    • you added an individual comment to the other group’s answer to your group’s question on the course wiki page
  • minus (1 mark): you are missing one or two of the above
  • zero (0 marks): you did none of the things required for a plus

Discussion/possible concerns

I decided to try to create a collaborative activity that combined both F2F and online aspects, as I’m trying to connect these two aspects of the course as much as possible. I thought about adding another F2F element after part 2, above, where they discuss their group’s answer together before posting it, and I still think that pedagogically that might be best; but I decided that this activity was starting to take up too much time of the class already!

Possible concerns:

  • I worry that the questions won’t be the right kind to allow for substantive group discussion. The instructor who did this activity originally asked students to pick questions that address the top levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, and I could do that, but I’m not sure how much time I want to spend in class explaining the taxonomy. Maybe that wouldn’t be too difficult and would help to solve this potentia problem.
  • There is also the perennial worry about group work that some students do very little and others do a lot. I tried to address this by having the mark not be given to the group as a whole but to individual members based on their individual contributions. That’s largely due to the nature of this activity–it doesn’t involve a major group project that one might want to give a significant mark to, and it lends itself pretty well to judging individual contributions.
  • Students may not want to publicly disagree with another group’s answer to their question. I’ll have to think about how to handle that situation. It’s not easy to be anonymous on the UBC wiki, as each edit is attached to your name and anyone can see who made the edits. One option is to move this to a discussion board on which one can be anonymous, rather than typing in answers on a wiki. It’s just that with the wiki it’s so much easier to see all the questions and responses at once, in one place, on one page.