How to Apply Question Formulation Technique in the Virtual Classroom

This educational technique can be applied in any subject area and age group. Usually in the classroom it is the teacher who asks the questions. The main aim of the question formulation technique is to shift the power balance into the classroom by laying the responsibility for their own questions on the learners themselves. To this end the teacher follows a number of certain steps with the aim of encouraging learners to formulate as many as they can meaningful questions.

The implementation steps of the technique in the Virtual Classroom are as follows:

  1. The teacher formulates the “Questions’ Focus” which involves the setting down of a preliminary condition or statement (maybe an image as well), which will set the focus point for generation of learner questions.  The statement and the image can be shared with the participants on the VEDAMO interactive whiteboard. For example, following a lesson on the Liberation of Bulgaria the teacher may pose a focus statement such as: “There were times when we were slaves and now we are free.” Students are expected to start asking questions about what has changed and what has remained the same after the Liberation. They can use the Raise Hand Button and to take turns.
  2. Learners (may be separated into small groups in the breakout rooms) ask questions within a pre-set time limit, set up with the timer. They generate and write down questions about the focus they have been given on the whiteboard in the main group or in their breakout room. Only questions are allowed to be generated, opinions and replies are not taken into account.
  3. Learners improve their questions – in the next stage, students start working on the questions they had noted. The tutor gradually introduces them to the concepts of open-ended (special questions) and close-ended questions (yes/no questions) and then asks them to arrange their questions into the two categories. The pros and cons of the two question types are discussed. Learners are instructed to transform at least one of the closed-ended questions into open-ended and vice versa. This can easily be done with the text editor in the Virtual Classroom. In this way students learn that the way we formulate the questions can influence a lot the quality, depth and value of answers that we get.
  4. Learners prioritise their questions – each group choose the three most important questions for discussion. They can highlight these questions in the text editor.
  5. Learners, together with the tutor, decide on what the next steps are, such as part of the questions may be discussed within the synchronous session in the Virtual Classroom while the rest can be used for further independent work on the LMS.
  6. Learners reflect on what they have learned.

The technique can easily be acquired and applied both by the tutor and the learners. It helps students learn how to learn as the asking of questions is an excellent learning tool, as Plato had put it: “The question contains half the way to the answer in itself” (free quote). Its application raises the level of engagement among students; they take “possession” over the questions raised, perceive them as their own investment and are motivated to find the answers.

Dr. Veronica Racheva is managing VEDAMO’s training programme. Veronica is a PhD in Theory of Education. She graduated from the Doctoral School at the Institute of Education, University of London and has a specialisation for a Virtual Teacher from the University of California, Irvine. Currently, she is a CEO of a Bulgarian K12 online academy, based on VEDAMO e-learning infrastructure. She is also a lecturer in E-learning at the Sofia University, researcher and author of scientific reports.