The Mechanics of In-Class Discussion

Follow-Up Questions

Ian Wilkinson defines authentic follow-up as "questions that the teacher is genuinely interested in exploring and that evoke a variety of responses from students (in other words, the answer is not pre-specified)." Good follow-up questions expand the conversation and require students to:

  • Clarify their answers: Tell me more about that.
  • Support their answers: What about the reading made you think that ___?
  • Argue: Convince us that __.
  • Examine their responses more fully: In what other context does that idea play out?
  • Consider different perspectives: What would you say to someone who thought ___?
  • Predict: What do you think that we will discover in the next chapter?
  • Hypothesize: How would handle a situation like ___?
  • Decide: So, this leads to you to what conclusions?
  • Compare: How is your answer different or the same from others?
  • Generalize: What did you discover?

Avoid the Following

  • Trick questions
  • Inadequate wait time (less than 3-5 seconds)
  • Lectures disguised as questions
  • Sarcasm
  • Questions with obvious answers
  • Asking multiple questions before allowing response
  • Rhetorical questions
  • Yes or no questions

Set Parameters

Many learners need to be taught how to engage in an academic dialogue -- particularly ELL/ESL students. Provide conversation stems on a poster board or notecards:

  • "Could you tell me more about why ___?"
  • "Let me explain why I see that differently."
  • "Have you considered ___?"
  • "What we both agree on is ___."

A Handy Playbook

Lastly, I've provided a general checklist of items to consider when planning a discussion: