Most people, when they think of teaching, imagine one of their prior teachers, standing at the front of the room pointing to something on the white/blackboard (or at least, I assume they do). While imparting knowledge on young students can be beneficial to some, it is not a teaching model that encourages student interaction. The readings from this week describe a variety of teaching methods involving knowledge that students inquire about and discover for themselves (constructive knowledge), giving them the skills they will need to find knowledge in the future while promoting lifelong learning. Now when I picture teaching, I try to imagine my old teachers asking questions that encourage students searching for the answers themselves. It is the process of discovery and learning that builds the deep connections in students’ minds. After all, you’re more likely to remember the day WWII ended if you experienced it rather than if you learned it in a classroom.
Questioning can be a strategy used in any subject. Beginning with a question, the teacher can then guide students to form their own questions and make their own discoveries during the lesson. For example, Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) describe a situation where a teacher—Mr. Hendricks—questions his students as they listen to sounds. He begins by allowing the students to play with the “instruments” for a bit, then asks if they notice anything about two sounds he makes. They begin by describing what they hear, but are confused about why two may sound similar but different at the same time. Mr. Hendricks continues the lesson by asking students to experiment with the sounds, ask questions and make predictions, then test these theories and present their findings. They are following the process of scientific inquiry as stated in the common core state standards (Common Core Sate Standards Initiative, 2015), while the teacher also continues asking questions to guide them. Rather than focusing on dictating to students what they should remember, according to the National Research Council, “the learning process should be built around in-depth inquiries into topics selected because they contain…important concepts from each discipline at any given grade level” (Joyce, Weil, Calhoun, 2015).
Other examples of questioning as a teaching strategy can range from subject to subject. In my own tutoring experience, I try to never give out answers to math questions kids are stuck on. Instead, I ask questions about what they already know, or what they can tell me about the problem, and we work from there. One of the teachers I work with almost always uses this inquiry process when teaching mathematics to his fourth grade students. Rather than showing them how to multiply fractions, he gives them a problem, asks students how they think they can solve it, then gives them the tools they might need to solve the problem. This helps them to develop their own cognitive reasoning skills, while also allowing him to assess where students are at as a group. For language arts, teachers can show students a picture, then ask students to describe the picture, to create a “picture dictionary” which students can then compose sentences with (Joyce, Weil, Calhoun, 2015). These photographs encourage students to think about what the picture represents and what it doesn’t represent, and requires students to form their own ideas of the new vocabulary they are learning.
While I believe it is important for memorization for many things in school, I think it is also important that we take a constructionist approach to building new knowledge. This way, we are giving students the foundation they need and the skills to build further upon their foundation at the same time, allowing them to form connections and act on their natural curiosities.
Joyce, B., Weil, M., Calhoun, E., (2015). Models of teaching. Boston, MA: Pearson
Common Core State Standards Initiative (2015). CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.3. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RST/6-8/