asking questions

In Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana outline a method for turning classrooms around so students become responsible for asking questions. Their idea is simple. A normal class situation involves teachers asking questions and students attempting to answer them. But Rothstein and Santana argue that asking questions is a more active learning process that requires deeper critical thinking.

Coming up with the right question involves vigorously thinking through the problem, investigating it from various angles, turning closed questions into open-ended ones and prioritizing which are the most important questions to get at the heart of the matter.1

Here’s a brief summary of what they call the Question Formulation Technique:

Leader: Create a (reasonably broad) theme

Small groups of students:

  1. ask as many questions as you can
  2. do not stop to discuss, judge or answer the questions
  3. write down every question exactly as it is stated
  4. change any statement into a question
  5. Decide whether to change any from closed to open questions (or vice-versa)
  6. List in order of priority

I’ve used the process in workshops (with colleagues and peers) and with undergrad and postgraduate level students. It has been fabulously successful in developing and activating conversation, and in asking people to commit to their thinking and ideas. The only problem I’ve had with it is that it becomes a little formulaic as a process and this makes it tricky to repeat with the same group(s). Instead, I’ve worked with variations on the same principle: the practice of asking questions is far more important than coming up with answers.

Image by qimono

Image by qimono https://pixabay.com/illustrations/question-mark-pile-questions-symbol-2492009/

  1. https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/24472/for-students-why-the-question-is-more-important-than-the-answer

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