03 May, 2009

Cultivating the Art of Questioning

By C. Radhakrishnan

Let me begin with a quote of Albert Einstein - “The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

Why do we need to be good questioners?

In the 21st century, challenges and demands are expanding and changing faster than ever before. Our environment is one of rapid communications, exposing huge potentials for increasing knowledge. How can schools prepare their students for the 21st century? Educators should recognize the need for new approaches to learning and teaching in a rapidly changing society and, at the same time, be prepared to respond to much more diverse needs of the learners. Some of the most significant influences in the world today are the changes to how we live and work which are brought about by technology and globalization. In this context critical thinking and questioning skills play a predominant role in deciding the success or failure of the generation we teach. So the skill of forming good questions is vital to both teaching and learning. Being able to create inquisitive questions empowers both teacher and children. Questioning is a life long learning skill that is very important for success in the current world.

Who needs to be good questioners?
Good questioning skill is very crucial for teachers, students, doctors, researchers and almost all professionals.

What is a good question?
There are generally different types of questions. A good question is the one that gets us information we need at any given time. Sometimes the answer will be a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, however, on other occasions it will be much more complex and so will the question that is required to prompt that answer. A good research question is one that guides the questioner through a quest to build personal meaning and understanding. Here again this can be very simple or complex.

Where does questioning belong in the curriculum?
The role of questioning runs throughout the curriculum. Motivation to learn is often prompted by questions. Clarifying details and thoughts, developing understanding, finding information and selecting relevant information are among the many skills crucial to all disciplines that depend on effective questioning skills. Critical thinking, regardless of the subject content depends on the ability to ask effective questions. The need for effective questioning skill is ever-present.

When do we teach questioning strategies?

In the primary classes we teach students to differentiate between statements and questions. We also introduce them to the “5W’s” (why, who, what, where & when). We need to continue to take a systematic approach to teaching questioning skill. It is essential that questioning skills are introduced and taught formally. Regardless of the class level, take time to observe and assess student skill level so that you can intervene with appropriate learning experiences.

How do we teach students to become good questioners? What tools can we use to help develop and hone questioning skills? The following questions will help you find the answer. Why don’t you be the first researcher in finding the advantage of questioning in teaching?
• How can the “5W’s and How” help students in question trekking?
• How can I help students organise data?
• How can questioning help students explore a topic?
• Q Task Quickies: KWL (Know, Wonder & Learn) Quickies (Developed by Donna M. Ogle).
• How can creating a question web help students develop a focus?
• How can I introduce the Question Builder to students?
• How can the Question Builder be used to help guide research?
• Q Task Quickies: Using the Question Builder (chart or web).
• How will a rubric help students create a better research question?
• How can students narrow and focus their questions?
• Q Task Quickies: Power-up Q Cards (Cards with 5W’s on a topic).
• How do I help students create a statement of purpose?
• How do students get to the right question?
• How can I help students move from question to thesis statement?

I am sure you will be able to find wonderful answers to all of the above questions through the “5W’s and H” technique. Any help or clarification in finding answers to these questions please doesn’t hesitate to contact me.