Home      Organizing Induction      Improving Practice   

Object-based and response-based questions

You can ask students a question about the object of discussion (the text or phenomenon or issue or data being discussed). How tall is it? How does it work? Who were the candidates in that election and what were their positions?

We tend to ask object-based questions when we want students to reconcile their thinking with the text or other object, to include evidence about the object in their thinking or to move toward an agreement about what the text means or about what the object is like or how the object works.

Or, you can ask a question about a student's response to the object of discussion: What did you think (or feel) when a character in the story gave up and went home? Why did you think that X was more likely than Y? What's your hypothesis about this phenomenon?

We tend to ask response-based questions (1) when we want to set up an open-ended discussion based on students’ ideas, and (2) when we want students to extend, elaborate and refine their thinking.
 
By shifting back and forth between response-based and object-based questions, we can “open” a discussion (lead to divergence) and “close” a discussion (lead to convergence or agreement).


Object-based vs. response-based questions

Type of question
Examples
Likely effects on a discussion

Object-based  About the object of discussion (text, phenomenon, issue, data)

  • How tall is it?
  • How does it work?
  • What were the candidates' positions?
  • Will you describe what it's like to live in a desert?
  • What happened when you added the acid to the solution?

Causes students to...

  • reconcile their thinking with the text or object of discussion
  • offer evidence
  • move toward an agreement


Leads discussion in a convergent direction

Response-based  About the students' feelings, thoughts and hypotheses

  • What did you think when the story's main character gave up and went home?
  • Why do you think that X is more likely than Y?
  • What's your hypothesis about this phenomenon?

Causes students to...

  • extend and elaborate
  • refine their thinking

Leads discussion in a divergent direction