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How to Help Your Students Ask the Right Questions

Posted by Joe Clarkin on Sep 3, 2014 11:00:36 PM
Topics: questionology, K-12

In education, most of an instructor's effort is put into helping a student find their right answer. But are we overlooking students' abilities to ask good questions? Warren Berger, a self-proclaimed questionologist, believes that the act of questioning is an indispensable skill. In his article at Edutopia, Berger goes in depth on five ways instructors can encourage their students to ask good questions. We've provided an excerpt from the article below, but we recommend that you read Berger's full post, which you can find here.


2. Make It “Cool”

This is a tough one. Among many kids, it’s cool to already know -- or to not care. But what if we could help students understand that the people who ask questions happen to be some of the coolest people on the planet? As I discovered in the research for my book on inquiry, questioners thought of many of those whiz-bang gadgets we now love. They’re the ones breaking new ground in music, movies, the arts. They’re the explorers, the mavericks, the rebels, making the world a more interesting place -- and having a heck of a time themselves. How cool is that?

3. Make It Fun

Part of the appeal of “questions-only” exercises is that there’s an element of play involved, as in: Can you turn that answer/statement into a question? Can you open your closed questions, and close your open ones? There are countless ways to inject a “game” element into questioning, but here’s an example borrowed from the business world: Some companies use a practice called “the 5 whys,” which involves formulating a series of “why” questions to try to get to the root of a problem. Kids were practically born asking “why” questions, so why not allow them to use that innate talent within a structured challenge? Or, show them how to use the “Why/What if/How” sequence of questioning as a fun way to tackle just about any problem. Whatever the approach, let kids tap into their imaginations and innate question-asking skills in ways that make inquiry an engaging part of a larger challenge.

4. Make It Rewarding

Obviously, we must praise and celebrate the questions that are asked -- and not only the on-target, penetrating ones, but also the more expansive, sometimes-offbeat ones (I found that seemingly “crazy questions” sometimes result in the biggest breakthroughs). Help create a path for students to get from a question to a meaningful result. A great question can be the basis of an ongoing project, a report, an original creation of some kind. The point is to show that if one is willing to spend time on a question -- to not just Google it but grapple with it, share it with others, and build on it -- that question can ultimately lead to something rewarding and worthwhile.

About Joe Clarkin

Joe Clarkin is a former copywriter at MBS. When he’s not working or studying, you’re most likely to find him reading a book or watching a game.

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