Saturday, March 15, 2014

Asking Questions

If you have ever spent time around children ages 3 to 8 (or maybe even earlier or later) you know the same thing that I do. Kids this age ask a ton of questions. "Why do stars shine?" "Why does dad have a mustache and you don't?" Why does the cat meow?" Where do babies come from?" And sometimes simply, "Why?" repeatedly. Well, there is a reason for all of these questions. Kids are learning all of the basic things that one needs to know in life and the easiest way to learn is to ask questions. All of that to say, questions are the source of learning.

True learning starts with a question. You have heard this before on various levels including the scientific method and the Socratic method. But I really just want to make it simple by stating that questions are what lead us to truth and learning. If we don't ask some sort of question, whether out loud or in our head, we are not really seeking to learn anything. If you want to build a wood shed for the first time, you will ask questions. If you want to learn to ice skate at a high level, you will ask questions. Sometimes, if not many times, these questions are subconscious. Like in ice skating you may not think you are asking questions but your mind is wondering why you keep falling! Either way, the source of learning, improvement, or progress is to ask questions and find solutions.

Somewhere along the way, we have "streamlined" education so much that we have slowly strangled questions out of our classrooms. Think about it. If a teacher consistently lecture without giving the students the opportunity to share in the process, the students are being robbed of maximized learning. Don't get me wrong, the student asks questions sometimes in that scenario but when questions aren't a driving force behind the activity, students are not learning at a maximum level. Lecture starts with the notion that, for efficiency sake, I am going to cut out the lengthy questioning portion of class and just tell them everything. The only problem is that then the "learning" becomes memorizing and doesn't allow the student to truly learn to their potential. Don't get me wrong, we have all been guilty of this.

However, I believe that we need to move towards more inquiry based and question based learning methods. Our students have access to millions of resources other than ourselves. They can access information at the drop of a time. So it is critical that we teach them to ask questions. Because if their interpretation of learning is just to "know," then they will become what we are all afraid of...simply....googlers. We need to teach our students to think critically and to seek true knowledge rather than just search for facts.

Questioning should play a huge role in our classrooms. Not yes or no questions, but why questions. We should make it our goal to teach our students how to ask questions and how to answer questions. We need to teach them that sometimes answers are not so easy to find or understand. We need to teach them that we do not know everything, and that is okay because we are modeling life long learning.

We have reached a point where our students just want to know what to do and when to turn it in. We have to shift that notion of learning if we want them to be successful. We as educators have to become the 4 year old kid who is constantly asking "why?" If we teach our students to question and to seek answers, they will becoming true learners and seek knowledge on a deeper level. Leading is Teaching.

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