Questions?

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 "I'm sorry. My responses are limited. You must ask the right questions." - From Dr. Alfred Lanning in the movie I, Robot (2004).

In teaching and learning, questions have been the most often used strategy for checking comprehension. Teachers use questions to engage their students into a direct and indirect response. But is that all? Is there anything else outside of the text? Can one formulate a new set of questions? Teachers should know that students can formulate new set of questions as a way to improve their comprehension.

Why students ask questions?

- To stimulate interest and awaken curiosity.

- To encourage a problem-solving approach to thinking and learning.

- To externalize and verbalize knowledge in learning.

- To encourage thinking aloud and exploratory approaches to tasks.

- To conceptualize.

- To learn from others.

Encouraging students to ask questions before, during, and after a task becomes a requisite for teachers. By asking questions prior to a task, students create a purpose for doing the task. Asking questions during the task helps students clarify their understanding. Questions after completing the task promote reflection and deeper thinking. Teachers should also make sure that the teaching materials provide an opportunity to ask focused questions that require students to compare, contrast, persuade, and determine cause and effect, which would develop their process of thinking.

As teachers we often hear:

"Teacher, I have a question..."

"What or Why...?"

"How...?"

Given the correct direction, these set of questions can be formulated from a general understanding to a specific comprehensive knowledge. Our recent trip to the Natural History Museum will give some insight as to what general and specific entitles:

 

General:

What is a food chain?

Specific:

What is the sun's function in the food chain?

If there is no sun, what would happen to the whole food chain?

What about the organisms on the top of the food chain?

Where do decomposers fit in the food chain?

 

General:

What is soil?

Specific:

Why do soil contain dead plants and animals?

Are fossils part of the soil?

How are fossils formed?

 

Rather than emphasizing a right answer, questions should be used to stimulate higher cognitive achievements and to make information more meaningful. If students learned how to formulate good questions, they would be that much closer to becoming "independent thinkers and self-directed learners". Good questions can make a fair student good and a good student great!