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Creating Life-long Questioners

posted Sep 12, 2014, 8:22 PM by HSD Principal

“The humble question is an indispensable tool,” says author Warren Berger in this Edutopia article, “the spade that helps us dig for truth, or the flashlight that illuminates surrounding darkness. Questioning helps us learn, explore the unknown, and adapt to change.” And yet schools don’t value questions as much as they should, says Berger; the premium seems to be on answers. Here are his suggestions for increasing questioning in the classroom:

Make it safe. Students shouldn’t feel that asking a question shows ignorance or a lack of competence. They need a classroom climate where questioning is welcomed and seen as a strength and students constantly build their “questioning muscles.” One second-grade teacher has her students do “10 by 10” exercises, generating ten great questions on a topic in ten minutes with no obligation to answer them. Berger suggests The Right Question Institute as a resource – http://rightquestion.org.

Make it cool. Some students think it’s cool to already know – or not care about knowing. Teachers need to point out that inventors, musicians, artists, and movie-makers are often mavericks who break new ground by asking provocative questions. This website can be a resource: http://amorebeautifulquestion.com.

Make it fun. “There are countless ways to inject a ‘game’ element into questioning,” says Berger – the 10 by 10 exercise; asking Why? five times; asking Why, What If, How? with any problem; turning an answer into a question; opening closed questions; closing open questions; and more.

Make it rewarding. “A great question can be the basis of an ongoing project, a report, an original creation of some kind,” says Berger. “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.”

Make it stick. The goal should be to get students in a questioning groove, reflecting on how they use questions, reflecting on what they’ve learned, creating a new neural pathway. The best questioners look at familiar things in fresh ways (“vuja de”); are always on the lookout for assumptions that should be questioned; and ask questions that others might consider naïve.


“Five Ways to Help Your Students Become Better Questioners” by Warren Berger in Edutopia, August 18, 2014, http://bit.ly/ZeNZdU

Extract taken from Marshall Memo 551, September 8, 2014
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