Questions Unite Us; Answers Divide Us

It is absolutely critical that teachers ask good questions. A good question is one that prompts discussion and elicits more questions from students. 

It is not enough for teachers to conduct a “Q & A” in the classroom. In this scenario students compete for who knows the most answers the quickest. Students learn that the teacher is the one with the answers and that there is only one correct answer. This leads to a divided classroom, in which some students feel smart and others feel like they don’t know. Students feel powerless and passive in the learning process.

When teachers ask good questions all students become engaged in their learning. Good questions help students relate to the material, become personally invested in seeking more information, and provide students with the opportunity to think, reflect and ask. Good questions unite students, inviting them to work together, to struggle and take time to figure out complex problems. 

Warren Berger, innovation expert and author of the book A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas  writes, “One of the most important things questioning does is to enable people of all ages to think and act in the face of uncertainty.” Isn’t this exactly what we want our students to be able to do? To be successful in college and career people need to take initiative, think and act when the answers are not evident. 

Teachers must model great questioning and help students hone their questioning skills. Whether teaching science or language arts, second grade or higher ed, all teachers must develop the ability to ask great questions to unite their classrooms and model problem solving skills. 

Asking great questions is an art that needs to be developed. The Right Question Institute provides wonderful resources to help educators nurture their ability to question. Educators must invest in becoming great askers, and they also must embrace as a critical part of their job helping students learn to ask great questions.