Writing discussion questions for certain subjects can sometimes be a little tricky. Why you might ask? Because in my experience some subjects lend themselves to discussion and multiple shades of gray (so no right or wrong answer). An example of this is when I taught Intro to Psychology. It was a piece of cake to write discussions and if anything I had to stop myself because I had so many great ideas but didn't want to overwhelm the students with too many discussions!
Yet, when I started teaching a hybrid (and then online) statistics course I realized that writing discussion questions that fit with what we were learning and involved gray responses was not that easy. It's taken me a few semesters and a lot of tweaks, but I'm finally starting to be happy with my discussions.
So what did I end up doing? A lot of different things! I've tried a lot of different types of discussions and overall I like to mix and match it up from semester-to-semester and even within the same course. Below are the different types of discussion questions I use and examples.
Types of Discussion Questions
Students write their own statistics questions/problems
For these types of discussions I'd have students come up with their own statistics question based on the topic for that week and then respond to other student's questions.
For these types of discussions I'd have students come up with questions or things they found confusing about the content for that week. Then other students could comment and provide help or even empathy that they were having a similar problem.
Incorporate current events that involve statistics
For these types of discussions I'd incorporate current news stories that involved statistics and have students review the information and provide feedback that would get them really thinking about how statistics plays a role in every day life.
Like everyone else students enjoy humor mixed in with their learning so for these posts I integrated something humerus, but that made the students think about statistics and how it's used.
Projects (group and individual)
I do a lot of projects in my course and I've found discussions are a great way to get students thinking and helping each other with their projects.
Evaluating statistics/information in the real world
This type was a new addition (thanks to recent world events) and focuses on getting students to look beyond what they read and think about how reliable/credible/possible is this information?
So what about you? What type of discussions do you find work well for what you teach?