Questions Can Be More Important than Answers


Submitted 24 days ago
Created by
Brad Choyt

In most schools, most of the time, teachers ask the set of questions they’ve prepared and students are expected to answer them. Even by the end of kindergarten or the beginning of first grade, students are conditioned to assume the provider-of-answers role.

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Yet, we know that children are naturally curious beings who are bubbling with their own questions when they begin school. And by systematically asking students to be the answer providers rather than the question generators for much of the class day, teachers may unintentionally be putting a damper on innate curiosity.

Of course, class time is limited and teachers have curricula to cover. Sometimes it’s necessary to move the discussion along quickly so new material can be introduced.  But it’s a delicate balance. Students who have greater opportunities to generate their own questions may become more intrinsically motivated to learn, and as such, more deeply engaged in their learning process. They also may be more likely to generate novel questions that illuminate original perspectives on the topics that are studied.

So how do teachers strike the right balance? To be more efficient with class time, teachers may choose to divide the class into small brainstorming groups and allocate two or three minutes to generate questions around the main topics. The groups can then share their top one or two questions with their peers and prioritize which question(s) should begin their class discussion. Teachers may also want to add their own questions to these lists to fill in gaps or more fully explore a particularly rich curricular strand.

Over time, this approach may help to shape expectations in the classroom and if done consistently, may even form habits for questioning that have a positive impact on learning attitudes across the school. For while teachers may lose a certain level of control in the delivery of their curriculum, they may gain momentum for the learning process by including their students’ questions and ideas to a greater degree. And this trade-off is well worth it.

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