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Posts Tagged ‘poq

If you seek to indoctrinate, provide the answers. If you seek to educate, provide questions.

I have been wondering out loud about designing and conducting workshops on the pedagogy of questions.

I revisited my plan after reading this piece by George Couros, Starting With the Questions to Develop Curiosity and Better Solutions.

However, these workshops remain a pipe dream because I have not met people open enough to try this approach.

Recently I took the opportunity to share my ideas with a contact. It went as it usually does — after a pleasant conversation, the ideas were gently rejected.

But I refuse to develop an immunity to people who either dismiss what they do not understand or not bother to find out more. I have the cure they need the most: It is called the pedagogy of questions.

Is there anything wrong with providing an answer before asking a question?

The tweet above by a newspaper typifies what some teachers do: Not just answering their own questions, but answering before questioning.

This might seem efficient, but it is not effective in nurturing learners who can think creatively and critically.

Answering before questioning creates these expectations and habits:

  • Do not think, just wait for the teacher
  • The teacher will provide
  • There is only one right or desired answer

Providing one or more answers before asking questions is like providing a solution before identifying a problem. There is no purpose or context. There is no authenticity. There is no reason to create meaning.

I have said this before and I will say it again: We need to rely less on a pedagogy of answers and more on a pedagogy of questions.

Good grades may help you look smart. Good questions help you get smart.

This is not one of my better image quotes. It has been sitting in a Google Slide deck for a while. But the words are more important than the image.

I got the quote partly off a tweet from my Twitter stream a while ago. Unfortunately, I did not take note of the URL.

But I did keep track of the original CC-licensed image.

Reunion dinners during the Lunar New Year are ripe for conversations that are inane and mundane.

Two people at my table started talking about how my son inherited my flat feet. As if to go one up, my wife worried that she might have passed her thalassaemia to him.

Forget the inane and mundane, we were downright depressing!

At that point, my now ancient Biology background kicked into gear. I almost shared how some scientists have postulated that blood-related conditions like thalassaemia and sickle cell anaemia might be evolutionary survival strategies.

These states are not life-threatening to people under non-extreme circumstances. They also happen to provide unfavourable conditions for agents of disease. For example, sickle cell tends to be endemically high in populations in malarial hotspots because the condition affords some resistance to malaria.

I almost shared it. I decided not to because very few appreciate unsolicited information.

Then I asked myself: When does a teaching moment become a learning one?

A teachable moment is one that good teachers recognise and grab intuitively. But just because a teacher senses a moment does not mean the learner shares the same head space.

What makes a teachable moment a learning one?

Not attention, the over-cited engagement, or even juicy information nuggets. These are what the teacher thinks is important and tries to create.

Questions matter. Not questions from the teacher, but questions from the learner. Questions that come right before the teachable moment and questions that follow. These show that the learner is vested in the problem or process.

Need an example? I think that @genrwong’s recent reflection on the butterfly effect is an excellent one. It illustrates perfectly how the context and questions come first and that the teachable moment is a response to these elements.

More teachers need to take advantage or create such teachable moments. They remind us what the best forms of teaching take: A question-based pedagogy, not an answer-based one.

As I mull over designing a possible Pedagogy of Questions workshop, I rediscovered from quotes I collected.

From Lord Alexander:

We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.

From Alexandra Trenfor:

The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.

The now fairly generic:

If your students can Google the answer, you’re not asking the right questions!

I could not find the attribution for:

Before you talk, listen. Before you react, think. Before you criticize, wait. Before you quit, try.

To that last one, I would add: Before you answer, question.

I have said this before and I will say it again: Questions drive learning, not answers.

I am not saying that you do not learn after you get a question satisfactorily answered. However, what pulls a learner in to seek answers in the first place are questions.

Video source

Do not just take it from me. The inventor of the Rubik’s cube, Ernő Rubik, had this to say:

That’s the problem with old schooling, because they were teaching answers. I believe questions are probably more important today than the answers.

An issue most schools might not realize they have is that they are set up to provide answers to unasked questions. The biggest question is: Why do I need to learn this? For learning to be powerful and meaningful, schools must reorient to be driven by questions.

On a related note, I discovered this in the exit poll of my session at SST’s event on Monday:

Is the time right for workshops on the Pedagogy of Questions?

Video source

If someone asked you a question like “What would you take to a deserted island?” you could provide an assortment of answers, just like the people did in the video above.

You could also react in a few ways.

The first way is refusing to answer.

The second is providing an answer with barely a thought. This is something an author at TNW advocated recently when he suggested that being dumb is smarter than being smart. While there is much immediacy and honesty to such a response, the suggestion seemed to be built on the premise of not overthinking things.

The example the writer cited was how you might respond to a question: Do you want an orange? You could dimply say yes or no, or you could wonder if the asker had ulterior motives.

A simple question warrants a simple answer. That makes sense. But life rarely has simple questions or answers. If schools are meant to prepare kids for life, they should not focus on just the simple questions or the simple-to-grade questions.

This leads to the third way: Answering the deserted island question by asking clarifying questions first. Just think of the questions you could ask. Now think about which questions are better than others. Then think about how we might teach kids to think like this and productively distinguish the critical questions from the criticizing, time-wasting ones.

This might be a good starting exercise in my dream workshop on the Pedagogy of Questions.

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