Support InteractionEncourage ParticipationGet students to ask questions

Students’ questions is a key element in the learning process and is a potential resource for both the student and the teacher. Through the process of generating questions, students become aware of what they do or do not know as they articulate their current understanding of a topic and attempt to make connections with other ideas. This is an essential quality to developing self-regulated learners. In addition, getting students to pose their own questions provides the teacher with information on the quality of students’ thinking and conceptual understanding, which in turn supports the teachers’ reflective practice.  

The following section explores some strategies that you can use to encourage and support students in asking questions. 

Strategy to support students in asking questions  

Creating a safe online environment for students to ask questions

By offering students the choice to be anonymous or only be identified by a nickname of their choice, technological tools can be used to help establish a psychological safe interaction space for a student engaged in question-generation tasks. Nevertheless, confidentiality can interfere with the accountability you’re looking to build on your students. Thus, it is important to establish a safe space  to ensure that your students’ online interactions are safe and productive through activities such as building communitysupporting interactions and encouraging participation.  

Offering students with suitable stimulus materials

Simply providing students the opportunities to ask question is not enough, students need to have some basis on which to generate questions.  Here are some ways to trigger questions from students: 

  • Apply cognitive dissonance in online learning to promote curiosity in learning. Use anomalous happenings/materials that do unexpected things as question stimulators. Put students  in contact with interesting materials can give them an opportunity to ask questions.  
  • Allow students to have unstructured observation with materials. Let students observe the materials (e.g., a table of data or diagram, a phenomenon) by themselves without guidance to increase the number of questions they are able to ask.  
  • Use of structuring or focusing strategies. Present a stimulus on which questions are to be based to prompt students to generate questions. Provide some structure for students to begin questions that are more likely to elicit deeper thinking than simple recall, such as ‘What if . . .’, ‘Why does.. .’, ‘Why are …’, ‘How would . . .. 

Providing opportunities for students to ask questions 

Getting students to generate questions before, during, and after the synchronous learning session (e.g., a Zoom webinar) enables them to think more deeply and critically about the concepts discussed before or during class. This has potential to better prepare and motivate students before the synchronous session begins, and engage them in problem solving, encouraging discussions and stimulating students to seek information on their own. 

Establishing a supportive climate for students to ask questions and provide feedback to each other 

You can use a variety of strategies and structure group learning activities to help students generate questions and work collaboratively with one another. By doing so, their ability to properly complete the task are enhanced. 

Online tools that support students in asking questions

Here are some suggested technology tools that you can use to encourage and support students in asking questions:

Using Poll Everywhere for students to submit questions

Using Poll Everywhere for students to submit questions during synchronous learning  (either online or f2f) session anonymously

Poll Everywhere (www.pollev.comis a learner response system (LRS) which can be used as a teaching-learning tool to make the activities more interesting, engaging, and interactive. Poll Everywhere allows instructors to ask openresponse or multiple-choice questions of the class, who can respond using personal hand phones, tablets, or laptop computers.  

Create a Q&A activity type in Poll Everywhere  

  • This allows students to submit open-ended responses in the form of questions. This is very useful for large class settings where all students can participate in the activity and view each others’ responses. 
  • To enable anonymity and moderation of inappropriate responses. For more detailed instructions, see here.    
  • If you are using Powerpoint  to present your lesson materials, consider embedding Poll Everywhere within the slides for a more seamless presentation of questions and responses. For details on installing the plugin for Poll Everywhere in PowerPoint, see here. 
  • Provide students ample time to formulate their questions, either to reveal their uncertainty about a concept/materials discussed earlier or as a response to a stimulus that triggers cognitive dissonance.  

Encourage participation from students  

  • Allow them to upvote or downvote their peers’ responses to highlight questions that most students would like to explore further.  
  • Organise small, adhoc groups of two to four students work together for brief periods in the class to discuss the questions to ask in response to a triggering activity to start the inquiry process activated by the teacher. The use of Zoom Breakout rooms can be used to assign students into smaller groups and within the smaller group. Then, pick a few groups to ask their questions.  

Using LumiNUS Forums for pre/post-questions generating activity

Using LumiNUS Forums for pre/post-questions generating activity 

Providing an online forum in which students were encouraged to ask questions about course content, can be helpful in promoting the learning of the material. Besides that, being an asynchronous communication tool, students can take the time they need to adequately formulate their doubts which in turn enables them to think more deeply about the topic in focus.  

Here are some recommendations when using LumiNUS discussion forums for students to ask questions: 

  • Create the need for students to ask questions and response to questions posted Select discussion topics that directly relate to students’ main curriculum. You could create a public discussion forum (e.g., “FAQs”, “Help!”) within the module for students to post questions related to the topics taught during lectures, tutorial and/or practical laboratory sessionsOther examples of successful topics included exam review, which has been found to be valuable to students as they get to ask questions in relation to the curriculum and explore solutions and critique other solutionsTo encourage student to ask questions and provide reasonable explanations for specific phenomena based on real-life context, a ‘Brainteasers’ online forum could be set up as well.  
  • Encourage student contribution in asynchronous online discussions that are student-facilitated Help students cultivate personal relationships with one another. For instance, you can get them to know one another prior to the actual online discussion activity and have warm-up pre-discussion activities where students get to post questions and response to question in response to a trigger using the online forum. You could also assign students to be student facilitators and introduce to them different types of questioning strategies to assist their peers formulate their contributions. 
  • Acknowledge and appreciate the individual student’s contribution Foster a civil and respectful environment where students feel psychologically safe, such as without the fear of being harshly criticised or judged, to discuss ideas or. Model positive facilitation techniques so that students will be able to learn from you and use similar strategies when responding to their peers. 
  •  Consider making students identity invisible to their peers if necessary To overcome possible psychological constrain, such as negative feelings of embarrassment or discomfort, that students might have before lesson begins, you can enable anonymous posting on LumiNUS forum. However, once this is enabled, both you and the students will not be able to see the identity of person who had submitted the post. In addition, configuring a category as anonymous is an irreversible action. Thus, even if you reconfigure the category you will not be able to see the posters’ names. 

Using PeerWise to provide a supportive climate for students to generate and evaluate questions

Using PeerWise to provide a supportive climate for students to generate and evaluate questions  

PeerWise ( an online repository tool that provides students with a space to co-create multiple choice questions (MCQ) based on a particular moduleStudents can choose to remain anonymous by using nicknames and identity information for all activity, such as developing new questions, answering existing questions, and rating and providing feedback on questions, will only be accessible to the teacher. In addition, academic teacher is not required to be actively administrating the questions and answers as PeerWise affords a number of social interactive tools to engage and motivate learners. This includes allowing students to earn badges based on accumulated scores derived from participation metrics as well as a feedback and tagging mechanism to enhance participation. 

The Guide on using PeerWise for teacher and students by The University of Auckland provides useful information on how to set up PeerWise for teacher and students. 

Here are some considerations on using PeerWise in your class: 

  • Train students how to write good MCQ questions and provide constructive feedback Effective MCQs can be difficult and time-consuming to construct. By providing students with some guidelines on writing MCQs will enable them to have greater confidence to participate in the activity.  Likewise, students may not be equipped with the skills to engage in the feedback process in a mature and helpful manner. Thus, discussing what is considered as constructive peer feedback before the activity helps students to be more intentional when evaluating the MCQs which will enable them to think about their own work more critically as well. 
  • Align the activity with the module intended learning outcomes and communicate clear expectation Communicate clearly what is the intended learning outcomes and how students should participate in the activity. For instance, students may be asked to craft and peer-review MCQs based on the concepts covered that week. If you want students to achieve a deeper level of understanding, students may need to craft MCQs that require higher-order thinking or a certain amount of plausible distractors.Discuss expectations, particularly if assessment is involved. Be clear on how many questions students need to create, answer, comment, as well as the frequency of their participation within the semester. Incentive to participate could be in the form of explaining to students how this activity supports them in their learning, awarding a certain (small) percentage of the module grades in the form of participation marks, and/or the possibility that selected MCQs will be included in the summative class test during the semester. 
  • Create a large test bank of MCQs for students to conduct self-assessment Questions generated could be a rich learning resource for students as they can use the test bank to perform drill and practice to check their own understanding. 

NUS Resources

Wiki Guide on LumiNUS Forum 


Video (4:43 minutes) by Professor John Hattie, from the University of Melbourne, on the importance of questions in developing self-regulated learners  

5 Ways to Help Students Ask Better Questions, ASCD Express

Socrative Seminar provides a great sample of questions 

APA PsycNet classification of research questions  

Structuring informal group learning activities 

Guide peer questioning to support students to learn effectively from the teacher’s presentation 

Reciprocal peer-questioning for small group critical reading sessions