Moving Forward, Looking Back – Asking Adjunct Questions in Class

“It is one thing to find out, from asking a question, that the majority do not understand.  It is quite another to then summon up one’s best elucidation of the point in question, ask another question, and find the majority still do not understand.” 

-Louis Abrahamson in Audience Response Systems in Higher Education: Applications and Cases

Although the use of the term “adjunct question” usually applies to a text document, it can also be interpreted as questions that go alongside content delivery in live class sessions.  Pre-lecture, mid-lecture, and post-lecture questions assist in student comprehension.  Additionally, students who are engaged with questions report coming to class more prepared than they might have otherwise.* 

Higher order thinking questions can ask students to apply knowledge from a previous night’s reading, or by interpreting a graph or chart.  As an informal assessment tool, this can give an instructor an idea of which students need further focus on a topic.  When these questions yield immediate feedback, faculty are even able to use them to adjust the lecture accordingly.

Some things to keep in mind, in order to ask the most effective questions:

  • Questions need to address conceptual understanding.
  • Consider allowing/asking students to discuss the question with others before and/or after submitting a response.
  • Students who defend their vote/answer more verbally after committing to a position report better understanding.
  • Ensure all students consider a question, as opposed to the vocal minority.

Question Types:

  • Background Knowledge Inquiry:  Spark interest/Activate memories.  Ex.  “What do you know about ___?”
  • Knowledge/Fact-Checking:  Quick recall of information.  Ex. “What were the two types of ___ we went over yesterday?”
  • Reality Check:  Ask a student to move from ideas to action – higher order.  Ex. “Knowing this, what would you do if….?”
  • Opinion Check:  Apply understanding to decision making – higher order.  Ex.  “What should the researcher have done in this situation?  Why?”

Strategies for incorporating adjunct questions into large classrooms: 

  1. Summary sheets – 2-4 minutes at the beginning of class asking students to answer a question on a piece of looseleaf paper to be reviewed by an instructor at a later time.
  2. Student Response Systems (aka Clickers) – Immediate responses can be great for formative assessment.  Check out our Think Clickers are just for your tv? post to learn more about clicker options here at WPI.
  3. Group discussion/Report out – Allow students to discuss the question, then have a representative report answers in 20-30 seconds.
  4. Flip Book/Flash Cards – Ask students to answer a multiple choice question by holding up a piece of paper with their answer.
  5. Journal – Students answer questions in a notebook throughout term that are periodically collected by an instructor for review.
  6. Online – Post questions in a myWPI discussion board immediately following lecture, or during lecture if students have laptops.

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section!  Thanks!