What Questions Did Your Students Ask Today?

 The Importance of a Good Question (4)

A while back I stumbled upon a book called A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger..,and it started a thirst in me I have been unable to quench – it’s an obsession to get the educators I work with to allow students to ask more questions!  The problem is – there is a skill to asking questions and students need to be taught that skill.. For me, this book was a manifesto for everything I think is wrong with education without actually being an “education” book at all.

The author does a great job of pointing out the major FLAW in education. We are teaching students answers…and asking them to regurgitate those on a test that will serve as a way to measure them against every other student in the nation – despite the fact that every child is an individual, chopped full of different needs, passions and ways of expressing themselves.

In order to spread the ideas and my dream that we can ditch teaching answers and allow students to ask more questions – the right questions – I now walk teachers – who attend the EdTechTeam Global Summits and Independent School Summits – through a protocol developed by Dan Rothstein of “The Right Question Institute.”

It is important for teachers not to jump right in and start using with students – but rather to experience the process – as it can be a unique event and one must go through it, to completely understand its intricacies.

It looks something like this:

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As a group, we find a focus or something that is of interest to the participants. They break up into groups and begin the process of asking questions by using the rules below.

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The most important parts in our session are steps two and three.

This part can be hard because our natural ability to want to help each other causes us to stop, want to edit, and to change questions to make them better.

Step three requires the students to take their list of questions and change the. They must change any open-ended questions to close ended questions and vice versa. One would think college educated teachers could handle this, but it is often the hardest part for all participants – students and adults alike. The process can help stimulate more insight into the question itself – and the layers of information within the query.

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The last steps are to rank the questions and then begin the process of finding the answer.  To do this, I use this Google doc – which forces each group to make a copy.  Then they begin ranking the questions alone and as a group.

What I love best about this protocol is that students  are now empowered to FIND the answer, not regurgitate it. It is my hope that every teacher in every classroom will learn and use this technique for stimulating engagement and passion in students.

If you want to learn more about this simple yet important process please visit the links below.

Additional Resources:

To read more about this from a teachers perspective (one who used it with her students) – you can visit this article written for ASCD’s Educational Leadership.

Or hear from Dan Rothstein himself in this TEDx Talk.

But if you really want to help your students ask better questions, nothing beats the place of this book – Make One Change by Dan Rothstein.

Author: HollyClark

Holly lives and works in San Diego, California. She delivers professional development to schools internationally and speaks at conferences about empowering teachers and students with iPads and Google Apps for Education. Contact her at holly@edtechteam.com to have her present or work with your school.

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