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Posts Tagged ‘questions

As an educator, my reaction to this tweet was: True that!

But I also thought about what makes for effective feedback, i.e., constructive critique that is skilfully delivered and acted upon positively. From the myriad of possible strategies, I boil down three:

  1. Timeliness
  2. Preparedness
  3. Meaningfulness

Being timely is partly about how soon the feedback is provided. If there is too much distance between the performance of a task and the feedback on the task, the later is ineffective because the performer cannot remember what/how they did.

Timeliness is also about being sensitive to context. It can sometimes help to put some reflective distance between an event and having a conversation about it. 

This leads to preparedness of the learner to receive such feedback and the teacher to provide it. 

A learner might be more open to feedback when they can recall what they wrote in an essay a day ago instead of a month ago. The same learner might be more ready to listen when they have had time to cool off and take other perspectives following a bad group project experience.

A teacher needs to prepared with feedback strategies relevant their academic areas. Such preparedness does not arrive by chance. Both students and teachers need to be taught how to listen actively and to ask critical questions.

But above all, feedback needs to be meaningful. This  means that it is understood by and relevant to the learner. It is provided in context and concrete enough to be acted upon. One generic framework that might scaffold the design of feedback is my 5W1H1S. That is the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of feedback, and So What happens if you do/do not act.

A recent exchange between a journalist and a ministerial panel for mitigating COVID-19 provides an example of how NOT to ask questions in education. Watch the exchange in this video segment.

The journalist had already made up her mind that the demand for the Sinovac vaccine was “overwhelming”. When this vaccine was allowed under special circumstances, the press and media featured the seemingly long queues for it outside private clinics.

These reporters did not show how the queues grew shorter as processes were refined or how the total demand for that vaccine so far (17,296 doses as of 5 July) is less than the current daily demand for the officially sanctioned mRNA vaccines (76,000 doses per day). The demand for Sinovac was not overwhelming, but this was not juicy news.

Long story made short: The reporter already had a headline and conclusion before getting more information. She asked a question with an answer in mind.

The reminder for those of us in schooling/education: Refrain from asking questions with foregone conclusions. This is not a good model for students as it is not an example of critical thinking. We need data and information before we draw conclusions, not the other way around.

Have you ever had a teacher who tried to encourage students to ask questions with the preface “There are no dumb questions”?

Sadly, there are. Here is quick professional development using something from popular culture.

Yuh-Jung Youn won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance in Minari. BTW, she also won a BAFTA and was awarded a SAG by her counterparts.

Video source

So you would think that the journalists backstage at the Oscars would have asked her some smart or pertinent questions. 

A few did at the beginning of this recording. But it nosedived quickly about halfway through when the question-askers focused on the person who presented Yuh-Jung Youn with her award, Brad Pitt.

The most ridiculous question was what Mr Pitt smelt like. Really? This was her moment, not his. But my indignation could not match her wit and frankness at the moment. The actress declared that she did not smell him because she was not a dog.

As I LOL’d at that reply, I thought about the “no dumb question” preface. There are such questions and they can be asked. They waste time and effort. They make everyone look bad.

One preventive solution: Model the asking of critical questions and scaffold the crafting of good questions in small groups. Deconstruct, review, and reconstruct these questions. This way students have more confidence in crafting questions worth asking. No dumb questions.

I have been thinking about how instructional (and now learning) design (ID) has been led by models like ADDIE and others.

The problem with ADDIE is that it is not properly taught, understood, and implemented. For example, one quick-and-dirty method is to use it linearly. That is not how ID is supposed to work.

Another problem I have with such ID is how formulaic it can sometimes be. Yes, ID can go through these critical processes and phases,  but that does not mean that the method you use is adequate.

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on

So I have been wondering if there could be ID that is led by questions — ID by Q. Questions like Is-it, Why, Who, What-How-Where-When, What-if, How-much, How-well, and So-what.

Those thoughts have been rattling in my head and they become loud in quiet moments. They are like the growing number of loose change in my pants pocket. Perhaps the best thing to do is to take them out, count them, and see what they are worth. Hmm?

Added after this reflection went online: Perhaps I will share these thoughts once a week, on Mondays, so that I have a series to ruminate on.

Today I ask some unsolicited questions on behalf of teachers and educators who have had to endure professional advice from their non-teacher/educator friends or relatives.

Would you claim to be a doctor after a few visits to your general practitioner?

Would you tell a software engineer what to do after you figured out how to change a WhatsApp setting?

Would you advise an architect on the next great design after you built a Lego masterpiece?

Would you tell an artist what to be inspired by after getting a shower thought?

Most probably not. But you have ideas that should be implemented by teachers and educators, don’t you?

Not many of you can claim to be doctors, engineers, architects, or artists. But practically all of you have attended lessons in classrooms, lecture halls, and laboratories. Many of you gained some insights of teachers and educators thanks to home-based learning/remote teaching thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns. But how exactly does that make you a teacher or educator?

Is something truly unprecedented if you have not revisited history sufficiently?

Is there a disruption if you are still clinging to a nostalgic past?

If you have taught something, have your students learnt it?


One aspect of the pedagogy of questions is asking good questions. This is something teachers need to learn to do and something that students need to be taught.

While some teacher preparation or professional development might address this, e.g., Socratic questioning, it might not be a priority. So I use the video below to illustrate how good questions create a wealth of answers.

Video source

My blogged “crash course” offers one principle-as-practice: Crowdsource your questions. This operates on the principle that that many is smarter than one. Here is an example of the principle in practice:

One educator reached out on edu-Twitter to fellow educators for questions he could post to his mayor.

His question led to clarifications about his request and a few key questions. His explanations likely clarified his goals and purpose for his meeting. He could have thought up the questions himself, but he can how say that others have the same concerns.

Bonus round: Asking good questions is not a sign of weakness. It is a skillset that provides opportunities for critical dialogue and varied perspectives. But those outcomes are not guaranteed if these conditions are not met:

  • Both teachers and students are comfortable with uncomfortable questions
  • The answers are not fixed, i.e., they are shades of grey instead of pure black or white
  • All participants have learnt to respect the process, e.g., they listen and clarify first
  • They expect that the process is sometimes the product, i.e., they might not have clear answers or agreement
  • The classroom walls are porous enough to include a variety of voices and expertise

Do you need a workshop or an online course on the pedagogy of questions? Enquire within.

Fear Factor: e-Learning Edition 4

I challenged my audience in 2013 with a series of slides led by the one above. My intent then was to provide a fourth element in a loose but critical scaffold for thinking about MOOCs.

Back then, I asked them if adopting platforms like Coursera would serve their underserved (they evidence then was that it would not). I challenged them to ask difficult questions like: What might the consequences be if they did not rely on evidence-based planning and approaches?

Today I position this questioning element in the context of emergency remote teaching. How do we respond to the fear of asking and getting answers to the following questions?

  • What mistakes did we make and what did we learn from them?
  • Why were we not better prepared? How might we be better prepared?
  • How do we level up our collective capacity towards seamless learning?

The last question might be informed with this useful framework from Scott McLeod.

The other questions require a brutal and honest look at ourselves. Will we remember enough and be brave enough to do that when we are on the other side of the COVID-19 curve?

This timely tweet reminded me to ask some questions.

Other than “learning styles”, are career guidance programmes here going to keep wasting taxpayer money on Myers-Briggs tests for students and the same training for teachers?

Are people who claim to be edtech, change, or thought leaders still going to talk about “21st century competencies” and “disruption” this decade?

Might people keep confusing “computational thinking” or “authoring with HTML” with “coding”?

Will administrators and policymakers lie low in the protection and regulation of the privacy and data rights of students?

Are vendors going to keep using “personalised learning” and “analytics” as catch-all terms to confuse and convince administrators and policymakers?

Are sellers of “interactive” white boards still going to sell these white elephants?

Are proponents of clickers going to keep promoting their use as innovative pedagogy instead of actually facilitating active learning experiences?

I borrow from the tweet and say: Please don’t. I extend this call by pointing out that if these stakeholders do not change tact, they will do more harm than good to learners in the long run.

Video source

This was the final episode of the the CrashCourse series on artificial intelligence (AI). It focused on the future of AI.

Instead of making firm predictions, the narrator opted to describe how far AI development has come and how much further it could go. He used self-driving cars as an example.

Five levels or milestones of self-driving AI.

Viewed this way, the development of AI is gauged on general milestones instead of specific states.

The narrator warned us that the AI of popular culture was still the work of science fiction as it had not reached the level of artificial general intelligence.

His conclusion was as expected: AI has lots of potential and risks. The fact that AI will likely evolve faster than the lay person’s understanding of it is a barrier to realising potential and mitigating risks.

Whether we develop AI or manage its risks, the narrator suggested some questions to ask when a company or government rolls out AI initiatives.

Questions about new AI initiatives.

I thoroughly enjoyed this 20-part series on AI. It provided important theoretical concepts that gave me more insights into the ideas that were mentioned in the new YouTube Original series, The Age of AI. Watching both series kept me informed and raised important questions for my next phase of learning.


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