Becoming Great Questioners
Nov 21, 2019
Questions play a critical role throughout a Challenge Based Learning experience. In the Engage phase we ask questions to connect to and contextualize Big Ideas. Throughought the Investigation phase we ask questions to discover new information, learn deeply about the our domain and learn how to create solutions. Finally, in the Act phase we ask questions about the validity of our solutions and how we can make it better. We assume that all learners naturally understand how to ask good questions, and the purpose of different types of questions, but this often not the case.
Our ability to ask lots of questions from multiple perspectives is often hampered by:
- Our experience with an educational system that values answers over questions and makes teachers responsible for the questions and students for the answers.
- Limited perspectives and experience to expand our base of questions.
- Timed work that forces us to “cut to the chase” and offer a solution.
- A lack of knowledge about the purpose and expected outcomes of different types of questions.
- A self-conscious fear of asking “dumb” questions.
- A natural bias to only ask the questions we want to answer. These include the ones we feel comfortable with, know the answers or guide us to a pre-conceived solution.
The problems will initially show up during the Essential Questioning step and with the Guiding Questions. Spending time early discussing and practicing different types of questioning will pay dividends throughout the process. Challenge Based Learning needs both “over the surface” and “under the surface” questions.
Over the surface questions typically include when, what, where, how and who. They provide relevant background but are usually easily answerable and only provide a “surface” level exploration of the subject matter.
Under the surface questions include why, what if, how come, should, would and could. These questions force us to dig deeper and understand underlying motivations, philosophies, and ideas.
“How” questions are interesting in that they can be both over and under the surface. Early in the Challenge Based Learning Process one needs to be particularly wary of how questions because they will accelerate the process towards solutions. As in – How do we solve this problem? An important question, but only when asked after the Investigation phase.
Who is asking the question can be equally as important. By having a diverse group asking Guiding Question the breadth and depth of the experience will grow. The Learners can have people outside the group ask questions or take on the persona of others and ask questions (e.g. What questions would a physician, lawyers, politician, etc. ask?
Once all of the Learners understand the value of the different types of questions it is easier to push for deeper thinking during the Guiding Question phases.
There are valuable resources for learning how to question are available, but most are teacher or adult focused – remember that the goal is to make all of the Learners masters at asking questions. great questioning skills allow individuals to take charge of their learning.