3 Replies Latest reply: May 17, 2012 11:27 AM by joe_phelan RSS

What makes a good question good?

mtsedwards Novice
Currently Being Moderated

So I've been a great proponent of the Harkness method ever since it was introduced to me at a CATE conference years ago.  It's a much easier form of Socratic circle and it's stood me in good stead for four years now.  What I've found, however, is that the Harkness is only as good as the questions asked.  And since a true Harkness requires the students, not the teacher, to formulate the discussion questions, I feel it my duty to teach the kids how to come up with good questions that can elicit intuitive and thought-provoking conversations.  After much hit or miss attempts, I stumbled on this link.  Yes, it's non-secular and no, I'm not promoting the site.  In fact, I've not actually explored it beyond the page I just linked to, so please no recriminations if I inadvertently offend/step on some collective religious toes.


So what about you folks?  Any ideas/suggestions/tips and tricks on how to extract amazing questions out of your students?

  • Re: What makes a good question good?
    snituama Novice
    Currently Being Moderated

    I found this page through the University NC Learning page concerning a discussion of the Socratic method.

    It links to a school district - Greece Central School in NY and details criteria for the secondary level -



    Opening and Sustaining Questions


    A good opening question in a seminar:

    • Arises from a genuine curiosity on the part of the leader and/or participants
    • Has no single "right" answer
    • Is framed to generate discussion leading to greater understanding of the ideas of the text
    • Can best be answered by references (explicit or implicit) to the text



    • Re: What makes a good question good?
      Rachel Pittman New User
      Currently Being Moderated

      The senior team uses this rule of three for student Essential Questions, and I think it would work well in any class for the purposes of crafting a solid question that incites intelligent dialogue.  The EQ must:


      • be an open-ended question (It cannot ask for a simple yes/no answer.)
      • take a stance (It must allow you to argue for some point. You cannot give a mere recitation of facts.) 
      • provide a framework for studies (It calls for breadth and depth of research, or calls on information you may have read about prior to the class)
  • Re: What makes a good question good?
    joe_phelan Novice
    Currently Being Moderated

    The "What is X?" question was a favorite of Socrates. I am amazed at how few people every get to this level of investigation. So many time we assume we know what we are taking about, and do not stop to ask ourselves and our group what we mean. How many times have you engaged in a discussion of a topic without defining your terms?


    Socrates went around Athens listening to people holding forth about various topics, and then stopping them to ask : what is justice, what is virtue, what is beauty, and most importantly, what is the divine? This last question got him in so much trouble that he was put to death for impiety.


    Of course, if you go around asking the Socratic question, you will soon find that some people get upset. " I KNOW what X is , EVERYBODY knows what X is"

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