Teaching Methodology: Questioning and Rigor

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A common question that new instructors at GA ask is, “How can I ensure that I’m breaking a technical concept down well for students?”  That’s hard and often learned in the role, over and over again. For our instructors who have taught multiple programs at GA, one underlying idea is that systematically building up the rigor of student questioning, tasks and assignments helps prevent confusion and pushes students to maximize their learning.

Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s Depth of Knowledge are both systems for thinking about the cognitive rigor embedded in lessons or curricula – illuminating the difference between, say, asking students to “identify key parts of a wireframe” or “create a wireframe for your own About Me page”.

While this might seem abstractly kind of interesting to new teachers, it’s often hard to see how something so theoretical applies to the actual day-to-day of teaching. One great way to embed cognitive rigor into your teaching is to push students through questions that increase in difficulty. Here are some examples of sample questions that get progressively more rigorous:

Level 1: Memory and Recall

  • What are the components of the product lifecycle?
  • What is an array?
  • Can you list three features of a great digital marketing campaign?
  • Where would html go in the MVC framework?

Level 2: Comprehensive

  • How would you summarize what a user story is?
  • How would you classify Python as a programming language?
  • Which statements support user research best practices?

Level 3: Application

  • What questions would you ask in an interview with Paul Graham?
  • What would result if you deleted this section of code?
  • What design elements of this website would you choose to change?
  • How would you model your closet using what we’ve learned?

Level 4: Analyzing

  • How does the job of a product manager in an established company differ from that in a startup?
  • What are the features of a well-designed mobile application?
  • What conclusions can you draw from this style guide?
  • What is the function of testing?

Level 5: Synthesis and Evaluation

  • Based on your data analyses, could you formulate a theory for these user patterns?
  • Based on what you know, how would you explain Hulu’s decision to use Rails?
  • Suppose you could re-design this site from scratch. What would you do?

Which level and type of question you decide to use will depend on your students, and the objectives of your course/lesson! You may be teaching a 1-off workshop where, if students could answer Level 1 and Level 2 questions correctly by the end, you’d consider it a huge success! Or you may have advanced students that you might want to push to answer Level 4 or 5 questions during your 1:1 session. Wherever you apply these, students will appreciate your being purposeful about the rigor of your questioning!

If you want a full list of question starters, feel free to email chelsea@ga.co