Thinking about DUMB Questions
By Andrew Churches
We know that one of tools sets we can develop in our student are the HOTS – Higher Order Thinking Skills. Teaching HOTS and use of timely, appropriate feedback provide the best learning outcomes for our students.
To be able to use Higher Order Thinking Skills we must, MUST, encourage questioning. To facilitate good formative assessment we must encourage questioning. We must develop a classroom environment where asking questions is encouraged and rewarded.
I am sure all of us have heard the phrase “there’s no such thing as a dumb question” and its true. The student who asks a “dumb question”, the how do you do this question when I have just spent 5 minutes explaining it, isn’t asking the dumb question! They are saying that my explanation, no matter how clear and concise I though was, did not clearly explain the situation for them.
If we get the same student asking us time and again the “dumb question” then its time for me as an educator, to reflect on my communication. Its time for me to consider changing how I am communicating. I Need to ask myself
* What is their learning style?
* What is my primary mode of lesson delivery?
* Are they a visual learner, Auditory, read-write or kineasthetic?
* How would I find out?
* Do they have a learning need that is not being addressed?
* or are they not being challenged, engaged or motivated?
Our “Dumb question” asking students is often taking a huge risk, they are inviting ridicule and drawing attention to themselves. But they are also taking charge of their own learning, they are telling me that they value learning and want to achieve. For these reason they must be encouraged.
But how often do we see the brightest of our students remaining quiet when we ask are there any questions?
I suspect that there is a stigma associated with asking questions. A stigma that says if you ask questions you are dumb or don’t understand. That by not asking questions you are saying I understand, by asking questions you are saying I don’t.
We need to have written above every whiteboard…
I want my students to question what I say, because when they do they THINK. And the thinking they are doing are the Higher Order Thinking Skills of Analysis and Evaluation. Ted McCain in his book teaching for tommorow talks of deliberately withholding information to have the students question the learning process. To have them formulate and then ask the key questions, to encourage and facilitate higher order thinking skills.
By asking questions they are analysing and evaluating. They are making judgements, constructing and deconstructing, estimating, critiquing, validating, checking, testing, monitoring, debating and discussing…
* Write it in big letters
* Print it out
* And stick it to your wall!
I guess a question that should be asked is what about the attention seeker? Well, that’s part of developing that environment that encourages learning. We all have those students now and again, and we can’t not develop questioning skills because of one who needs attention. Rather we need to deal with the student and the root cause of the issue rather than avoiding the situation.