One of new things that I have started doing in my graduate courses is to challenge students to determine what answers they are seeking from the course, which in turns ask them to identify questions that they must ask. It is part of my evolution in Lean teaching, to make learning more a pull system instead of the usual push system. See my 2015 conference keynote presentation “Application of Lean to Teaching” (slides 24-29) where I presented my new approach to course design aimed at transforming face-to-face and hybrid teaching from “push” to “pull.
The assignment is called “Seek Answers by Asking Questions.” Its purpose is to personalize discovery and learning; to teach to individual interests, rather than teach to an assumed interest possessed by the group of students. Students submit this assignment in the third week of the semester, after they have had a chance to review the course materials and understand some of the basic concepts and problems related to the subject matter. It forces students, at the start of the course, to think about what they want to get out of the course. This is different than the usual approach in which the professor tells students what they are going to get out of the course.
Below are two good examples of what students submitted. It is clear by the quality of the submissions that these students did engage the material during the first three weeks in an effort to understand some of the basic concepts and problems related to the subject matter. Students who did not engage the course material submitted poor work, and their discovery and learning is therefore likely to be more limited.
Click on the images to view the files. Let me know what you think of this approach to engaging students in the subject matter and to personalize learning.