By Ms Carla Gagliano
Head of Learning & Teaching, Junior School
In our daily lives, we intuitively ask many questions and in turn, we are asked what sometimes feels like 100s of questions in a day! As educators, we strive to pose good questions for our students to ponder, for them to feel challenged and experience those crunchy eyebrow movements – questions that cannot simply be answered with a one word response.
So, what makes a good question?
● A good question requires more than simply remembering a fact or reproducing something a learner may have heard or been told.
● Students can learn by answering these questions and the teacher also learns more about the student from their response, as the student’s thinking has been made visible
● There are often many acceptable answers
Sometimes educators also gain a deeper insight into a child’s understanding by observing the way the learner goes about answering the particular question. Their approach, reasoning and explanation not only help students to move closer to answers and solutions but also provide an opportunity for them to become more aware of what they do and do not understand.
These good questions can be pondered individually or in groups, where students also have the opportunity to develop perspective when listening to others’ ideas. This time and space for students to communicate their thoughts is invaluable; however, this sharing time can also be challenging for our learners when their ideas or approaches are questioned by their peers.
While we strive to ask our students good questions every lesson, it is also our goal as teachers to inspire our students to pose good questions. Whenever I reflect on our students as question askers, rather than just question responders I am always reminded of a powerful article published in the New York Times in the late 80s. This short piece talks about Isidor Rabi, a Nobel laureate in physics, who was once asked, ‘Why did you become a scientist, rather than a doctor or lawyer or businessman, like other immigrant kids in your neighborhood?’
Dr. Rabi answered, “My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: “So, did you learn anything today?” But not my mother. She always asked me a different question. “Izzy,” she would say, “did you ask a good question today?” That difference – asking good questions – made me become a scientist!”