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Posts Tagged ‘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.

Google provided lots of answers at the first day of I/O 2018.


Video source

Perhaps I missed something, but what were the questions? Who asked the questions and why were they asked? How exactly are we paying for the answers?

Don’t get me wrong — some of the answers and solutions are intriguing. But to be convinced, I need to know what the questions and problems were. Before you problem-solve, you need to problem-seek.

Despite the doubling of tweet length, this one (archived version) needs more context.

The sharing session might focus on WHAT the context is and HOW the supposed system auto-magically does this.

But I wonder if it will explore the WHY of doing this. Answering this question explores the ethics of incorporating such technology. This might include what data is collected and how algorithms run to make summary decisions.

Let us not forget where others have gone or are going before, i.e., how Facebook and Google are under the microscope for not being more careful with student data.

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.


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