Fall semester came to a close just before Christmas. On our final day, we do a “go around” inviting everyone to share a thought, observation, favorite activity, memorable learning, or anything else they might like to share. In reference to me, one student commented, “At the beginning of the semester, it bugged me that you never answered our questions, instead asking us another question back.” It made me smile. I often shared in class that the worst thing you can do when a student asks a question is to answer it. Most of the time, the answer lies within the student. It is our job to pull it out. A carefully worded question in response serves that purpose. When it is not there, an effective question can point them in a direction that will lead to an answer. In doing so, we place the learning squarely in the lap of the student – where it belongs. When we simply provide an answer, all too often we reinforce a teacher centric approach and take away the joy of student discovery. Granted, there are times when it is most appropriate to provide an answer: time doesn’t allow, the question is too complex, seeking an answer would take them too far away from the intended instruction, etc. In those cases, answer, but do so strategically and with intent. My student continued on, “by the end of the semester, I came to really appreciate it and hope to model it with my own students.”
Several of the kindergarten classes at Crossroads called me Mr. Question. I found great pleasure in that title. It reflected the power of the question and its ability to empower the joy of learning.
What do you think of questions?