What Makes a Question Better?

To ensure students are more than a GPA, to be confident that they’ll leave the classroom with more sophisticated thinking and knowledge, we talk about asking better questions. But here’s a question… what actually makes a question better?

Similar to other classroom discussion platforms, Packback encourages student engagement and interactivity to encourage further learning and giving students more of a voice outside of their large lecture hall. But what Packback also offers is its ability to guide students to higher levels of thinking through asking better questions and providing better answers.

So how does Packback manage to do this? The Packback Curiosity Score.

The Packback points system differentiates low and high quality posts, which not only guides students to provide more high quality posts, but it also assists professors to reliably grade posts beyond participation or the number of posts – quality over quantity.

There are specific behaviors that are correlated with highly active, curious and driven members of the community. These behaviors and commonalities drive the algorithm that determines Packback’s scoring for posts.

Every post on Packback earns its own, unique point score. Points are summed across a user’s communities to calculate the overall Curiosity Score and then ranked across all active users on Packback.

Packback scores individual posts based on presentation, credibility and effort.

The format of a question or response is critical to the understanding from other community members. The formatting visually guides a reader’s eyes through the question or answer. Including supplemental materials can show examples or where the question or answer is derived from. The easier a post is to read, the easier it is to contribute to the discussion as if it were a conversation in the classroom.

Evidentiary support to your question or answer offers credibility to a post. Does a post contain relevant, reliable sources to defend ideas and arguments? This makes the poster and content both have higher credibility. The algorithm for credibility also considers correlated behaviors, including frequency of posting, post depth and time of post.

Effort is one of the strongest indicators of a quality question or answer. Because questions on Packback are open-ended, posts should be well documented, articulated and supported. Was a post straightforward or did it add a new and unique idea or perspective? Posts with the greatest effort explain ideas and arguments fully, share stories or relatable experiences and include supplemental materials.

The scoring system encourages students – based on the criteria of presentation, credibility and effort – to think beyond simply remembering and understanding content and into higher levels of thinking as outlined in the example of Bloom’s Taxonomy above, a framework we follow closely in encouraging curiosity.

The Packback scoring system isn’t reactionary only. While submitting posts, Packback’s platform provides real time coaching and proactive feedback to students on how to increase the quality of their question or answer as they are typing.

Packback aids students on asking the better question before they even press ‘submit.’

The scoring system is not stagnant. The scoring system was introduced during the Spring 2017 semester, and it will continue to be developed and evolve based on the needs of students and professors.

Packback Curiosity Scores go beyond the capability of many classroom discussion platforms. They drive friendly competition between classmates, assist professors with grading on a discussion platform and finally, and probably most importantly, guide students to become better learners by encouraging more curious questions and insightful responses.