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Posts Tagged ‘questions

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 your students can Google the answer, you are not asking the right questions.

Remember bite-sized lesson 2: question? In it I referred to the importance of using the pedagogy of questions (PoQ), not just the pedagogy of answers (PoA).

However, simply asking factual or low-level questions is not representative of the PoQ. It is not just about searching for answers and getting them right. This focuses on the product of learning.

The PoQ is more about the processes of teaching, e.g., asking the unGoogleable questions, and of learning, e.g., analysing and evaluating what is found.

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.

The STonline reported that a sample of Singapore students topped an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) test on problem-solving.

I am glad to read this, but only cautiously so. This is partly because the press tends to report what is juicy and easy. I am cautious also because such news is not always processed critically from an educator’s point of view.

For example, how did the OECD test for problem-solving ability? According to an excerpt from the article above:

Screen capture of original article.

Screen capture of original article.

There were no other details about the authenticity, veracity, or adaptability of the software-based simulation. Only the makers of the software and the students who took the test might provide some clues. This test system is a closed one and lacks critical observers or independent evaluators.

Perhaps it would be better to raise some critical questions than to make blanket statements.

The product of problem-solving is clear (the scores), but not all the processes (interactions, negotiations, scaffolding, etc.). So how can we be certain that this problem-solving is authentic and translates to wider-world application? Our Ministry of Education (MOE) seemed to have the same concern.

MOE noted that the study design is a standardised way of measuring and comparing collaborative problem-solving skills, but real-life settings may be more complex as human beings are less predictable.

Our schools might have alternative or enrichment programmes — like the one highlighted in Queenstown Secondary — that promote group-based problem-solving. How common and accessible are such programmes? To what extent are these integrated into mainstream curriculum and practice?

The newspaper’s description of the problem-solving simulation sounds like some of the interactions that happen in role-playing games. How logical and fair is it to attribute our ranking only to what happens in schools? What contributions do other experiences make to students’ problem-solving abilities?

Test results do not guarantee transfer or wider-world impact. What are we doing to find out if these sociotechnical interventions are successful in the long run? What exactly are our measures for “success” — high test scores?

What is newsworthy should not be mistaken for critical information to be internalised as knowledge. The learning and problem-solving do not lie in provided answers; they stem from pursued questions.

I argue that we have more questions than answers, and that is not a bad thing. What is bad is the current answers are inadequate. We should not be lulled into a collective sense of complacency because we topped a test.

After reading this piece on formative assessment by Steven Anderson, I decided to focus on formative feedback instead.

I sum up and oversimplify formative feedback in four broad and overlapping activities. These are driven by the questions:

1. Where is the learner now?
2. Where does s/he need to go?
3. Why does s/he need to go there?
4. How might s/he get there?

Three questions for formative feedback.

The problem with generalisations is that people start and end there. I do not share these questions to drive dogma. Instead they are distillations of the collective experiences and wisdoms of progressive educators everywhere.

Post production note: I originally had just three elements — I did not have the WHY at first. This might not seem like a logical formative question, but it is an important one to ask to keep the learner’s motivation up.

No, I have not found a way to bring Richard Feynman back.

But the world needs still needs his knowledge and wisdom. Case in point:

I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers that can't be questioned. -- Richard Feynman

Call it what you will: Lifelong learning, life wide learning, growth mindset. I call it being open and child-like.

When I am first approached by organisers of speaking events like conferences, seminars, or symposia, the question they want answers to is: What can you contribute to the conference or event?

That is a logical question given that the organisers are looking for a good fit and bang for their buck.

I had a Skype chat yesterday with one organiser who asked me something I have not been asked in almost six years: What would you like to get out of speaking at this conference?

The last time I was asked that was when curators of TEDxSingapore asked me to speak at an event targetting youth.

As an occasional speaker, I am more used to helping out than helping myself. The educator in me is about giving rather than getting. So the question almost stumped me.

Almost. I answered that question over two fronts. I wished to see the impact of what I said immediately and over a logical delay.

I gauge immediate impact not just by how the audience is responding in person. I also monitor my backchannel, respond to questions and comments there, and make social media connections.

After that moment of inspiration, I look for efforts of perspiration. It is easy to be inspired after an event; it is much harder to put ideas into play. I look forward to following up with my new contacts, e.g., visiting sites to observe plans in action, reviewing documents for policy changes, being invited to speak or conduct workshops, etc.

I also look for opportunities for personal and intellectual growth. I do not expect everyone to agree with what I say. Just as I hope audience members gain a new perspective, I wish to learn from disagreement or to dig into a nugget I have not uncovered before.

As a maker of good trouble, I want to know if I have created enough dissonance to spur people into action in terms of how they teach and facilitate.

Don’t trouble Trouble till Trouble troubles you.

The adage is don’t trouble Trouble till Trouble troubles you. I role-play Trouble while most people and organisations are Inertia personified. I want to know if I have moved people enough to do something meaningful.

I love this Wired video series where an expert teaches five learners at very different levels. I highlighted a previous video last month in which a neuroscientist discussed connectomes.


Video source

In the video above, another biologist was challenged to discuss CRISPR at five individuals: Child, teenager, college student, graduate student, and expert.

The previous five-level video inspired me to link it to personalised teaching. This video might remind teachers how they might teach at any and all levels. They should seek to ask questions, not just answers.

At each level, the biologist asked at least one question:

  1. Child: Do you know what a genome is?
  2. Teenager: What do you think about being able to edit genomes?
  3. College student: Do you know how CRISPR works?
  4. Graduate student: (Are there) any unintended consequences?
  5. Expert: How are you using gene editing in your own work?

Despite the different types of questions, they shared the same property. The questions drove to where the learner was likely at and were designed to build knowledge from that point.

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

Too often teaching starts with answers without questions. This only teaches students how NOT to ask questions. This also reinforces in teachers not to ask good questions or to not get students to do the same.

I share below a few image quotes I created in 2015 and 2016 that highlight the importance of leading with questions. These image quotes and many others are available in one of my Google Photos galleries.

The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don't tell you what to see. — Alexandra K. Trenfor

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.

Good GRADES may help you LOOK smart. Good QUESTIONS help you GET smart.

Last Saturday, I delivered a keynote and participated in a panel on game-based learning and gamification.

I had questions that I could not address in the limited time during my keynote as well as the panel at the end of the conference. These were from the pre-conference poll.

I wish to address these questions, but I will focus only on questions that I understand.

How to tie in GBL with small-wins or short-term rewards?

I have no idea how to do this with GBL because I have not implemented GBL with this design or intent. Nor will I ever. During the keynote I described how games could be integrated to focus on thinking skills, attitudes, values, and intrinsic motivation. These take time to develop and I would rather invest in these.

How would I use this technique if the University has a set of rules I have to follow and present?

The university (or partner university in your case) is unlikely to have rules about pedagogy. If it did, that is not a university that is looking to serve for today and tomorrow.

You know the content, context, and your learners best. The WHAT of a prescribed curriculum might be very full. The HOW is your responsibility and limited by your creativity.

Must it be IT based?

The “it” could be games or gamification. Both could be enabled with current technology or not. I gave examples of both during the keynote, so I have addressed that part of the question.

Here is the other part: ICT is a more current term than IT since the former is often more interactive and multi-way while the latter is more transmissive and about regulations.

What types of subjects are suitable for game based learning?

Any and all of them are suitable, especially if you do not limit yourself to content-based learning and expand the possibilities to include critical and creative thinking, socio-emotional learning, soft skills, attitudes and values, etc.

Can Gamification ideas be implemented not through a game but just mere teaching activity?

Gamification does not employ games; it uses deconstructed elements of games, e.g., points, levelling up, leaderboards.

Your question seems to hint at game-like instruction. There are strategies like putting the problem (assessment) first or early, and focusing on just-in-time learning instead of just-in-case front loading.

I would like to try this approach but I am afraid it might take up a lot of the class time. How do I go about it without sacrificing too much of the contact time?

Can you have a cake and not eat it? 😉

Something has to give and if it comes to that, you might have to use your judgement to see what to push out in order include something else.

How viable would it be to introduce gamification within a primary/secondary school classroom? The aim is to use gaming elements to increase engagement between the students and the teacher.

It is certainly viable, as apparent by the number of vendors and parties outside of schooling and higher education who want to do this.

Unfortunately, these groups sell you on the low-hanging fruit of “increased engagement”. Do not play this game because this is not why any technology-mediated strategy should be used.

Trying to engage is like trying to take control of light switches: You try to flip them on so that your students see the light. But they are just as easy to switch off or learners can move on to something else.

Engagement is something you do to try to help your students; empowerment is something you pass to students so they help everyone. By all means engage, but do not forget to empower. Vendors might tell you how to engage with gamification; I would rather see learners empowered by game-based learning.

how to know which game is appropirate [sic] for teaching when we don’t game?

You do not and cannot know. So play!

My replies to these questions might have a perceived tone. I assure the askers that my replies come from a good place and with good intent: I want us to collectively change and improve our practice.

Participants of the session observed how the panel and I approached the Q&A. The same tone and concern should be applied here.


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