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Office of Educational Affairs, College of Medicine

Connection Questions

When you tell a student factual Connection Questions

information, you can’t know, at that can also be precursors to
moment, if the information is grasped. subsequent material in the
If, instead, you ask a question that gets presentation. For example:
a response, you have a sense that, at “Curtis, we’ve been talking
that moment, the student knows. But about the doubling time of
what if you want the student to syn- breast cancer cells. If we are going to move our discus- sion
thesize significant amounts of knowl- toward cells with more aggressive doubling times, what are two
edge and to use that knowledge to possible choices?” or “Samantha, after dealing with this case of
predict new directions for thinking? roseola, and considering I want our discussion to continue to
How do we go about that task? The deal with the same patient age-group, tell me why or why not
simple act of asking intentional ques- we’ll be dealing with hand-foot and mouth disease next.” These
tions steps us toward that end. may be simple questioning routes, but they require students to
By now you have had a chance to link information, evaluate it, and prepare a synthesized response
see how targeted questions and follow- in a short time.
up targets help move student thinking In short, Connection Questions get at the mechanisms of
up Bloom’s ladder. However, synthe- learning. Learning occurs through the juxtaposition of new and
sis comes only when learners link old information and/or experiences. Learners make meaning by
thinking and content systems. This continually rearranging sense or vicarious stimuli. Connection
can be done with well designed Con- Questions stimulate this kind of meaning
nection Questions. making. For example: “Veronica, based on
Put simply, Connection Ques- your understanding of our previous case con-
tions recognize knowledge systems. veying the difficult news that a colostomy
No knowledge stands alone, but would be required, how will this new patient
rather is connected to other knowl- deal with the news of a recurring cancer after
edge systematically. Students often three years of no signs?” Notice how Veron-
need reminding of this, especially since ica must respond on one situation based on
they’ve generally been taught through her perception of another. In this instance,
right/wrong paradigms. Questioning the instructor can spend time with Veronica
can move them beyond simple di- teasing out the significant aspects. The instructor can probe the
chotomies, and link them to a world issues about the first case that led Veronica to her conclusion.
where dialectic thinking rules. The instructor can get Veronica to compare the two patients.
Connection Questions can be Even the two kinds of cancer can be compared. One well de-
as simple as “what are the similarities signed question can stimulate a great deal of critical thinking on
between tinea capitis and hand-foot the part of the student.
and mouth disease?” or “What are the It is quite probable you already think in terms of Connec-
significant differences in growth rates tion Questions. However, it is also probable that you don’t ask
of breast vs. colon cancer?” These is- them often enough for fear that either the students are not
sues are sometimes treated as facts, ready to respond at this level, or that you are unsure what these
but treated as a question, students questions might do to the flow of your presentation. Let me
must pull together multiple sources to encourage you to begin developing your questioning techniques
conceptualize similarity and difference, so that all three of the styles presented so far—targeted ques-
and so some basic connections are tions, follow-up targets, and Connection Questions—become a
made. major part of your teaching toolbox.