Canvas,  Educational Theory,  Instructional Strategies,  Uncategorized

Discussions in Canvas – Asking Good Questions – Part 2

By Roberta Campbell-Chudoba


The exchange of questions and responses is vital to teaching and learning. The types of questions we pose as instructors should grab our students’ attention and curiosity, reinforce key points, encourage reflection, and foster active learning.

Discussions in Canvas – Asking Good Questions – Part 1 explored creating open-ended questions by using Bloom’s hierarchy of cognitive skills. Part 2 looks at categorizing questions by type and using divergent, higher level questions in discussion forums.

Categorizing Questions by Type1

The type of questions used in the discussion forum is dependent on the purpose of the discussion and your learning outcomes. Some question types are useful for redirecting, digging deeper, prioritizing and synthesizing.

Question Type Intention Example
Exploratory Probes facts and basic knowledge What evidence supports the theory of intergenerational trauma?


Challenge Examines assumptions, interpretations and conclusions How else might we account for the results of this experiment? What assumptions underpin this approach?


Relational Asks for comparison of ideas, themes or issues What conclusion of the Federal Court of Appeal did the Supreme Court of Canada set aside in its ruling in Daniels v. Canada? What is the difference in interpretation that sets the two rulings apart?


Diagnostic Wants to probe causes or motives Why did Hamlet kill Polonius?


Action Calls for a conclusion or action How should Canada respond to declining fertility rates and an aging population?


Connective and cause-and-effect Looking for causal relationships between ideas, events, or actions Could the Russian invasion of Ukraine increase global hunger? Defend your response.


Extension Expands the discussion


How might we draw a distinction between leadership theories we have considered and the functions of operating an organization?


Hypothetical/ Guesses or Estimates Poses change in issues or facts


If all humans disappeared from the Earth, how long would it take for the last artificial light source to go out?


Priority Seeks to identify the most important issue


From everything discussed thus far, what key issues are emerging about access to clean water for Indigenous communities?


Summary Elicits a synthesis What lessons/new learning has emerged from this discussion for you?


Divergent Questions2

Whether categorizing questions by type (as above) or cognitive skill level, divergent or “open-ended” questions require students to recall information from memory and apply that knowledge (and other knowledge) to explain, expand on, analyze, or evaluate a situation, topic, or problem.

  • Lower level divergent questions emphasize synthesis and analysis of information to formulate a response, requiring hypothesizing and restructuring (Bloom’s level – Analysis)
    • Students must think critically about ideas, information and/or opinions; they might uncover motives, causes or reasons, and draw conclusions or make generalizations or inferences.
    • Questions sound like” “What are possible consequences of . . .?” “Imagine if . . .” “How could . . . ?”
    • They may lead to student-generated questions and further discussion, engaging students at a deeper level of thinking.
  • Higher level divergent questions encourage creativity, requiring inference, original, and evaluative thinking
    • Students may make predictions, propose solutions, solve problems, construct, speculate, develop or judge ides, make choices, produce original thoughts.
    • Questions ask students: “Defend . . . “ “Predict . . .” “Can you create . . .?” “What is your stance on . . . ?”
    • They may stimulate knowledge-seeking and hypothesis generation.

Asking questions requiring higher levels of thinking and ensuring your questions are specific, clear, and relatable will help to foster critical thinking and engagement in your discussion forums.


1 This section based on Gross Davis, B. (2009). Tools for teaching (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

2This section adapted from McComas, W. F., & Abraham Rossier, L. (n.d.) Asking more effective questions. University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence.