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Student-Defined Questions (classroom)

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Facilitate Student-Defined Questions active learning activities in a classroom

Time and Effort

Instructor Prep TimeMedium
Student Activity TimeMedium
Instructor Response TimeLow
Complexity of ActivityMedium


Student-Defined Questions have students individually reflect on a reading assignment, lectures, or presentation. Before class, students write a question based on that content and write a model answer for it. In class, student pairs exchange questions and write a response to the partner’s question. They trade, read, and compare answers.


Use it when you want...

  • To have students practice identifying important features of course content,
  • To formulate questions and answers, and review responses given by others, or
  • To give students a chance to rehearse responses to questions and examine sample responses outside of a formal testing environment.

What students will need

  • No special requirements for this approach.


The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate Student-Defined Questions learning activity within a classroom.


  • Formulating a good question is a difficult task and one with which students are often unfamiliar. This activity will work best when you have spent some time teaching students how to formulate valid questions and answers.
  • Prepare a handout with guidelines, sample questions, and responses that model the level of complexity and depth you expect.
  • Create an online assignment that asks students to reflect on a learning activity (e.g., reading an article, listening to a lecture, watching a film), formulate an essay question and model response to the question, and submit it to the instructor.
  • Have students prepare a model response to their question.


  • Students bring a copy of their questions and model answers to the next class session.
  • Students form pairs, exchange questions, and write responses.
  • Students trade model answers and compare and contrast their in-class responses and their partner’s model answer.
  • Partners discuss their response first for one question and then for the other, paying particular attention to similar and dissimilar ideas.
  • Optional: if you want to assess the quality of questions and sample questions, students share their documents with the instructor.


  • Review the outcomes of the activity.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

Technical Documents


Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 302-306.

See Also:

Keywords:active learning, student-defined questions, classroom   Doc ID:104092
Owner:Timmo D.Group:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
Created:2020-07-16 16:00 CSTUpdated:2021-08-20 13:10 CST
Sites:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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