Facilitating Great Questions from Students
If the soil does not contain any nutrients, a seed cannot grow. In a similar vein, students can only begin to be curious when the circumstances are favorable. I was excited to begin the year with questions and curiosity on the first day of school. I showed my senior statistics students a picture of a subset of the Mayan number system’s integers.
I inquired, “What makes you wonder?”
There was not a single question asked in the room. Promptly understudies started attempting to “take care of the issue.” They looked for patterns, and some of them shouted out, “I get it! I understood it. They were gently reminded by me that the goal was not the answer. Questions were the goal.
This activity reinforced my belief that students are not taught to value questions and curiosity in our educational system. We teach them to strive for correct answers in particular. Finding a solution to a problem is fine, but without asking the right questions, we can’t move forward or come up with new ideas.
You could say that over time, my students had learned to suppress their curiosity. I had to show them that actively asking questions is a skill they could improve on. They could regain their curiosity. It’s also possible that my students were unfamiliar with the correct way to ask a question.
According to Sara Lev, a teacher who works with children as young as four and five, despite the fact that young students are naturally curious, when they are prompted to wonder, they frequently respond by making statements rather than asking questions. Lev, for instance, asked her class after listening to a podcast, “What questions do you have about making a podcast about outer space?” “It should be about the sun!” declared one student. Sara took the soul of his assertion and assisted him with transforming it into an inquiry, “Gracious, would you say you are considering what the web recording ought to be about?” resulting in the inquiry, “What topics should we discuss?”
Students tend to be better at expressing their thoughts and opinions than they are at answering questions, even in the upper grades. We can assist students in recasting those concepts as questions they ought to investigate more deeply in order to inspire them to inquire.
If you’re wondering, “Why don’t my students ask questions?” It could be that they were scared, their curiosity was stifled, or they just don’t know how. In what follows, we’ll investigate multiple ways of kicking start the cycle and sow the seed of marvel.
How can I establish a safe environment for contemplation?
My father was not your standard “star student.” He was the seventh child, and the family did not place a high value on education. Sister Loretta taught him the lessons from school that he remembers: Be respectful and don’t talk out of turn, and don’t throw any food away. In addition, my dad has always had a deep curiosity about everything. He tinkers, disassembling vintage dirt bikes, record players, and radios in his spare time. Better than before, he tweaks them and puts them back together. He once showed me a high school model of an electric go-kart that he had drawn, long before Elon Musk or anyone else had talked about it. I inquired about his education and whether he had asked any questions. Never! I was afraid. I was afraid of the teacher and my classmates’ judgments of me.
Imagine a classroom where my dad would have felt at ease expressing his curiosity, where students would have praised him for asking questions, and most importantly, where other students would have admired him for his creativity. He might have spoken up more, inquired about generator operation, or requested a project to learn more about batteries. He might even have constructed the electric go-kart he had imagined in his sketchbook.
In the past, school was a place where students proved their worth by answering questions put to them by their teachers. “Knowing things” is valued, while “not knowing” is punished with low grades and privilege loss. In this setting, what kind of student would want to ask a question? In a system that rewards answers, their question would indicate a lack of knowledge and reduce their value.
Our initial move towards making a space where understudies will pose inquiries is to fabricate trust in our homeroom networks. For students to feel secure enough to take the risk of admitting that they do not know something, this is a prerequisite.
Changes in language that aren’t too big can make a big difference in how people think about questions. André Sasser saw this in her initial not many long stretches of educating. She would inquire, “Are there any questions?” after each lesson when she first started. The students rarely spoke up. She changed her tone to, “What inquiries do you have?” or “Three questions for me.” Students began to stir as a result of these prompts.
This minor adjustment made inquiries the norm; Students met that expectation and asked lots of questions. In a room that didn’t value taking risks, they were brave and asked questions that might have appeared too simple or obvious. Changing the culture can begin with careful language used to normalize and elicit questions.
Primarily, my dad was concerned about how other students would view him if he asked a question. Normalizing the demonstration of asking, as Sasser has, makes an impression on all understudies in the class that questions are to be esteemed, not ridiculed. In the following couple of segments, we’ll examine more systems so that aiding all understudies in the class might see the worth in addressing as opposed to considering it to be a shortcoming.
Building trust in your classroom community can also be influenced by the way you help your students get to know each other. This is probably something you’ve noticed in your own experiences. Some groups of students are familiar with one another and have attended classes together for a long time. They are able to get along with one another and are willing to show their vulnerability by asking a question. Students from other groups who have not developed relationships with one another will be more reserved and less likely to confess when they do not know.
Imagine a brand-new student enrolling for the first time in your class. Almost certainly, this alters the dynamic for everyone. The new student frequently feels the need to make a good first impression, so they are more likely to answer questions they already know the answer to rather than take a chance by asking one. Because they want to make a good impression on the newcomer, students who have previously taken your class may also be more cautious when speaking up in class. As relationships develop, lively questions and class discussions return over time.
Fortunately, teachers can actively assist students in developing interpersonal relationships. Giving students the chance to collaborate on a common objective is one strategy. Students can avoid the awkwardness of middle school by participating in review games and team activities, which provide enough structure for them to socialize with one another. Students are encouraged to interact with one another when there is healthy competition. Additionally, these activities help students feel less stressed, which makes them more receptive to one another.
Reducing your impact in the classroom is another important strategy for helping students become comfortable with one another. It’s all about giving students ownership of the material by respecting their ideas and giving them time to teach each other at the board.