12 Sep Questioning as a Springboard for Learning: “What don’t I know?”
“So the word ‘why’ not only taught me to ask, but also to think.” Anne Frank
No matter the year level, the subject you teach, or the topic you may be covering in a certain unit, you will most likely want to hook the learners and get them involved in their own learning as much as possible. When we strive to create an environment of curiosity in the classroom and instill in our students the belief that they all have valuable contributions to make, chances are that we will see great things happen .
When the teacher creates an atmosphere where all students feel that they have equal opportunities to participate actively in the lesson, this helps promote the notion that learning is a collective endeavor and everyone should reap the rewards. Even if they don’t realize it, children and teens will be driven by their natural curiosity to inquire and learn. Therefore, it is up to the teacher to stimulate curiosity and propel learning by allowing plenty of room for questions to be asked.
For students to be able to craft their own questions, strategize on their inquiry, and harness their curiosity to drive their own learning, one needs to get them on the right track. Formulating a good question may be challenging to some students, therefore they usually need the teacher’s guidance to select the most interesting and relevant issues within a topic. This initial, yet key step, will provide a focus for the inquiry while encouraging the learner to start developing a line of reasoning which is intended to go beyond a mere description.
From the outset, the students recognize that it is crucial to formulate an engaging, open-ended question before they explore a current problem or issue (e.g. about Human Rights). Then the learners embark on their discovery/investigation while challenging themselves. In the process, they must make sure they take into consideration the causes and consequences of the issue, and search for answers and different perspectives in order to set forth possible solutions or courses of action.
This approach focuses on strategies to help the students identify gaps in knowledge and move on to asking questions which will form the basis of their individual or group projects, essay writing, debating or other tasks. It draws on both the PBL’s Essential Project Design Elements and the Cooperative Learning frameworks.
Endless Possibilities and Lesson Extensions
Questioning, exploring and answering a well formulated question is the heart of a meaningful, challenging project. Students are naturally curious, but sometimes they struggle to have a clear focus when it comes to investigative project work. It is advantageous to promote curiosity and tap into the students’ desire to have a voice, but the teacher also needs to emphasize the importance of student reflection and refinement of the questions they generated previously.
This methodology has proven to be very useful in guiding students in individual and group research tasks in the Cambridge Global Perspectives and Research course, but the same model can also be applied to other subject areas or in cross-disciplinary projects.
Using questions as a springboard for learning is suitable for students of all ages, lending itself to creating products and developing presentations and displays which will add a “social dimension” to student learning. The student performance and public products inherent to this approach will be a testimony to the learning that takes place throughout the process. In addition, students will be given the opportunity to reflect both on their learning and on ways for further growth.
Victor M. J. Barreira earned his Honours Degree in Modern Languages and Literature at the University of Coimbra, Portugal, and went on to receive an Ontario Teaching Certificate from the University of Ottawa and Masters Degree in Teaching and Learning from Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario. He worked as a teacher in the French Immersion Bilingual Program in Hamilton, Ontario and Coordinator of In-Service Training at CERCIMIRA – Vocational School in Mira, Portugal. Victor then became the Middle School Curriculum Leader and Teacher/Coordinator of Learning Through Research at CLIP – The Oporto International School in Porto, where he currently works as the Teacher of Global Perspectives, English, French and Geography.