When trying to gauge someone’s level of understanding, breaking with traditional forms of assessment can allow for a more accurate picture. Often, the use of discussion questions allows people to demonstrate their level of knowledge in a way that is more reflective of their true abilities; being able to discuss a topic at length shows a greater depth of thought and understanding than answer some objective questions, as these often focus more on memorization than comprehension. However, creating discussion questions that allow for in-depth analysis and critical thinking is something that takes a bit of skill.
Questions that require a yes or no answer often end quickly; it is difficult to discuss something when the question itself can be answered with just one word. Similarly, questions that lead a person to think a certain way can color the way they answer; a question that has a position inherent in its wording might encourage someone to answer with what they think a person wants to hear, rather than how they themselves feel. Instead, discussion questions should encourage people to read between the lines, to find meaning where it might not be immediately discernible. Comparing and contrasting topics, for example, encourages a person to think in greater depth than they might traditionally; the same can be said for considering the cause and effect of various factors at play. Asking a person to explain something in their own words also requires them to demonstrate that they fully understand the topic, something that might not be achieved with a traditional form of assessment.