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Posts Tagged ‘question

This press piece began with this question.

Why is the question not: Why are some people less productive than others when working at work? It is not as if working outside of home automatically makes work better for everyone.

A similar and equally uncritical question could be asked of schooling and education: Why is home-based learning so difficult? We should instead pivot to the question about the difficulties of learning in the classroom.

One direct answer for avoiding the pivot is that refocusing on work and school highlights what we fail to do well and somehow keep ignoring. For example, it is easier to ignore how administrative needs at work or school might be placed higher than working or learning needs.

Another simple answer is that the home is not made for work or school. Often it is a place to get away from both, i.e., to rest, pursue an interest, spend time with family, etc. We can make adjustments to home just like a scuba diver dons a suit and air tank, but such adjustments are temporary. 

So, no, the tweeted question is not a good one. It is an attempt at clickbait. It is not an attempt to actually challenge or develop creative and critical thinking. 

A question that might actually create some dissonance might be: What can we learn from the online pivot at work/school and apply to the workplace/classroom when we return?

Martin Weller recently critiqued how we tend to do the same thing differently:

We decry the tendency to simply replicate lectures online, but then do the same with meetings. We call for educators to use technology to its advantage to realise new pedagogies, and then recreate face to face conferences in Zoom. We stress the need to rethink your teaching approach to ensure learners are not adversely affected and then conduct line management via Teams.

In short, we think almost exclusively inside the work/school box even when circumstances (pandemic) throw us firmly outside it.

Now that we have enforced experiments with telecommuting and remote teaching/learning, why not use these experiences to address the weaknesses of the office and classroom?

After a rigorous walk yesterday, my mind connected some dots and arrived at this point: Students need to learn how to think more systemically.

Sytemically, not just systematically. The latter is about logic and sequence. The former is a combination of divergent and convergent thinking. It is about critical questioning and appreciating nuance. 

Why is systemic thinking important?

Consider the disconnect between what happens in policymaking circles (e.g., the recent updates on Singapore’s ramping up of contact tracing, testing, and vaccination), and social media and kopitiam/cabbie chatter.

Video source

The thinking that happens in the first group is mycelial or rhizomal — it is complex, interconnected, and messy. It is necessarily divergent to find solutions to a complex problem. But such thinking then needs to be conceptualised and simplified, i.e., it needs to converge to communication points and concrete action.

The thinking and discourse in the second group tends to be superficial. I choose not to embed examples here because they are harmful. You need only take a cursory glance of your Facebook timelines or WhatsApp conversations for examples.

The second group depends on personal experiences, does not counter bias, and eschews data or facts. It is convergent from the start and does not diverge because its communication circles are tight or even closed.

I reflect on this 15 years after being conferred a Ph.D. that is based on systemic thinking and design. I majored in Instructional Systems Technology and minored in Information Science. That investment reshaped my life and work.

So during my walk, I wondered why I was not taught to think this way earlier. I compared my schooling to what my son and his generation experience now. They are more aware of the importance of asking critical questions, embracing uncertainty, and non-routine work.

But they are still subject to teachers, tests, and timetables that do not (cannot?) accommodate systemic thinking. So how might they be taught and nurtured to operate more broadly?

At the risk of oversimplification, they need to ask beyond the core set of powerful questions. They need to learn how to ask and answer “What else?” questions. 

If they are solving authentic problems, they need to iteratively ask what else might contribute to those problems and what else might solve them. If they are involved in meaningful projects, they need to ask themselves what else they need to do.

Asking “What else?” is not the only way to develop systemic thinking, but it a useful start. What else do we need to do to enable systemic thinking?

This tweet reminded me about an issue we grapple with in schooling: Do we teach students to ask critical questions as much as we expect them to answer questions?

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Lisa Lane posed this question Lecture: recorded, zoomed, or what? and provided her answers for each option depending on the type of lecturer one might be.

The problem with answering such a question lies in the photo she used in her blog entry. If you visit the link above, you would see the black-and-white photo of a white man in a suit talking to a room of other white men also in suits.

So much has changed from that time and yet such a “pedagogy”, if you can call it that, persists. It hangs on not because it is a fit strategy. It does so because people are lazy. And even lazy and unfit animals survive and pass on their genes because they are not selected against.

The same could be said about lecturing. The environment does not put pressure on this practice. It is not challenged socially, it is enabled technologically, and it is justified economically.

But I would urge those who rely on lecturing, even those who are really good at it, to consider this statement:

The danger of lectures is that they create the illusion of teaching for teachers, and the illusion of learning for learners.

Then we might consider a better question than Lane’s. One like: If not lectures, then what?

Do leading questions (like the one below) already provide answers?

Leading question.

If so, what is the purpose of such questions? Why not make strong statements instead?

Why ask questions when you do not need to? Why not ask better questions?

Some journalists ask leading questions, but does that mean that you have to? Since you have more bandwidth and seek to generate discussion, why not stop asking leading questions?

This is my fourth image quote update for the week:

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

My original image quotable quote was:

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

All this is to say that we should pursue answers by seeking meaningful and powerful questions first. While this might seem intuitive, we sometimes forget to do this in schooling — answers are provided before questions are asked; artificial solutions are given before authentic problems are identified.

One basic aspect of assessment literacy is question design. There are several principles in the case of multiple choice questions. The tweet below illustrates a few.

The options cannot be so obvious as to not challenge the learner. No one lives to be 500 and even a child without siblings knows a grandparent cannot be 5-years-old.

The choices should not just be about content and standards, they also have to be authentic. To avoid embarrassment and mistakes, it helps to think like and for the learner.

One classroom management strategy that practically all teachers learn is to reassure students that “there are no dumb questions”. The rationale for this is that teachers want students to develop the confidence to ask questions in class.

However, the statement is superficial and patently untrue. There are dumb questions. Take the question in this tweet, for example.

The tweeter claims that the graphic presents a good question. It does not and the question is dumb. I do not mean this as an insult.

If you did not study any of the sciences, a quick look at the comments might reveal why the question is dumb. If you did not trawl the comments, then consider the logic of lighting a cigarette under water, or even it that was possible, how gills work.

There ARE dumb questions. I am not talking about honest, curiosity-driven, or thought experiment questions. I am talking about Googleable questions.

Googleable questions are not just about getting answers from Google searches. They include questions or statements that can be posed to YouTube, Wikipedia, assorted trusted forums, social media groups, etc.

The Googleable answers may not be valid or reliable, but therein lies the importance of developing this skill. Students must be taught to think of worthwhile and meaningful questions. When they receive responses, they need to work out which are valid and reliable.

Some people call this collection of skills modern information literacy or digital literacy. It would be a dumb move to not model and integrate this in every subject. Not doing so would result in questions as dumb (or dumber) than smoking fish.

Refuse to be confused.

I am recreating some of my favourite image quotes I created some time ago. This time I use Pablo by Buffer and indicate attribution and CC license.

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

The world of schooling is familiar with the pedagogy of delivering answers. It needs to educate itself by learning the pedagogy of questions. This is where problems are identified and sought before finding or creating solutions.

The pedagogy of answers provides solutions before problems are clear; the pedagogy of questions presents problems before seeking solutions.

Note: I am on vacation with my family. However, I am keeping up my blog-reflection-a-day habit by scheduling a thought a day. I hope this shows that reflections do not have to be arduous to provoke thought or seed learning.

Do these statements create dissonance?

  • Schooling is not education.
  • Gamification is not game-based learning.
  • Flipping your classroom does not guarantee flipped learning.
  • The choice to consume different resources is not the same as personalised learning.
  • Teaching objectives do not guarantee learning outcomes.
  • Enhancing lessons with technology is not the same as enabling learning with technology.
  • Engagement is not the same as empowerment.
  • An infographic is not a poster with a collection of graphic elements or snazzy fonts.
  • Learning styles are not a fact. They are a myth.
  • Calling your students digital natives does nothing to change pedagogy and might actually entrench teacher behaviours.
  • Cyber-anything.

Some of our fellow Earthlings in the USA say they should continue to question and critique everything Trump because they do not want time and lethargy to normalise what he says and does.
 

 
Likewise, educators should not allow unquestioned practice, outdated research, tradition, or vendors out simply to make money to perpetuate falsehoods.

If we do not listen with an informed ear, we let what they say become acceptable truth. If we do not cast a critical eye on what we read or observe, we normalise what we would normally object to. We owe it to our learners to do better and be better.


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