Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How do you write a "Google-Proof" Question?

A while back I wrote a post about "Google-Proofing" questions. The quick summary of the post was this: why ask a question to which an answer can quickly be found with an internet search? Certainly we all need a core of knowledge upon which to build. I certainly have no intention of banning the memorization of multiplication tables! My point is that as learning progresses, the questions that we as teachers should be asking involve higher order thinking skills. Bloom's Taxonomy has been a valuable tool for helping write such questions.

I'd like to get your advice on writing "Google-Proof" questions:
  • What strategies do you employ to write challenging questions which force students to think critically and deeply about a topic?
  • What resources have you found that are helpful in writing challenging questions?
  • What verbs have you found particularly useful in your question writing?
If you have a question that has worked particularly well for you, please share it! Even if it's related to a different content area that I, or other readers, teach, we can learn from the setup and construction of the question and apply the principles to our disciplines.

I look forward to reading your ideas and suggestions!

5 comments:

  1. Hi again Mr. Sowash,

    My name is Katherine Perkins and I enjoyed reading your post. This is a great question that you have brought to your readers mind. "How do you write a Google Proof Question?" Prior to EDM 310, I hardly used Google as a search, but I'm using it more than before. I'm more of a Yahoo person and this question could be applied to Yahoo as well. When I research a topic, I don't write full sentences because I know that every single word will be added into the search. I try to go with the main topic I'm research, for example, Echolalia or Echolalia symptoms. If I put in a full sentence the search would bring up a lot of irrelevant pages. I have done the same method using Ask Jeeves.

    I don't know if my response helps, but that's something I do. I would also like to see what other ideas your readers come up with. So I hope you receive some great feedback and I will check back to read other comments.

    I have enjoyed reading your blog these two weeks and I look forward to reading more. Keep up the great work Mr. Sowash!

    Also thank you for providing feedback about Wiffiti.

    -Katherine

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  2. * What strategies do you employ to write challenging questions which force students to think critically and deeply about a topic?
    I try to ask inference questions. Questions whose answers are not directly stated in the reading. Also, questions regarding the tone (either written -academic vs humorous for example, or spoken - sarcastic or not)

    * What resources have you found that are helpful in writing challenging questions?
    None really. As a teacher you need to have a very good grasp of the material you are you using so that in turn you can ask thought-provoking questions.

    * What verbs have you found particularly useful in your question writing?
    I try to move from yes/no questions to info questions. I always ask students to use examples and/reasons to support their opinions.

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  3. One technique that I use to "google-proof" a question is to present a situation having multiple points of view, ask the students to pick one and then justify their position. For example, "do you think that commercial farming led to changes in farming technologies or that changes in farming technologies led to commercial farming? Explain your reasoning." I'm not so much interested in which position they take as how they arrived at that position.

    A second approach is to base questions on exhibits that I created (explaining trend lines in a graph, for example).

    If you're interested in the higher-level result, though, the source of the foundational material strikes me as irrelevant.

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  4. Thanks for your ideas, Mr. Stinson. Your method certainly falls into the "evaluation" and "synthesis" fields of Bloom's. I find that students are frequently afraid of giving the wrong answer instead of supporting the answer that they choose.

    From your second approach I gather that you setup up questions similar to the science portion of the ACT test where with a data set upon which the questions are based? I regularly challenge my students with these types of questions, usually just for the mental exercise. They seem to enjoy the challenge and try harder when they know that there's no grade attached to it.

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  5. At a basic level, I would frame hypothetical questions: How would the world be different today if Hitler had won WWII?

    Asking students to compare and contrast new learning to previous learning helps raise the cognitive level of their work. For example, comparing and contrasting two historical figures such as George Washington and Napoleon. They could be contemporary but not necessarily. This also works well with comparing book characters, people from current events, etc.

    Asking students to role-play discussions between characters in a novel or famous people who shared the same era in history: I once saw a great Abraham Lincoln's Facebook page. It showed his friends, what other famous people of the time had posted on his wall, his latest post (Off to the theater...). A great way to engage students in content!

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