Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Asking provocative questions

Asking provocative questions is an important part of inquiry as it encourages students to think deeply and come up with their own understanding.  These questions are ones that don't have simple answers (facts) and that spark curiosity in students, encouraging them to discover the answers for themselves.  In searching for the answers to these questions, students develop more complex and critical thinking and come up with more enduring understandings.

Guiding questions that teachers ask should move students' thinking from the factual to the conceptual level of thinking.  In her book Stirring the Head, Heart and Soul, Lynn Erickson explains how to write guiding questions.  She tells us to turn generalizations into questions, for example by asking why.  The generalization "community members have roles", she turns into a guiding question by asking "Why do community members have roles?"

Having read this book, I'm now finally coming to grips with when to ask why (for guiding questions) and when to ask how and so what (for moving from level 1 to level 3 generalizations).

As part of our inquiry process we have the students generate their own questions.  Once again we need to be able to guide students to write good questions - so that they are not just "fact finding" during their inquiry but are actively thinking about the concepts that are embedded in their units.

Photo Credit:  q is for .... by DorkyMum

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