The 3 Questions That Changed my Life

28 10 2011

I’m a teacher.  No mystery there.  I live, breathe, think, and sometimes even dream about teaching.  For years and years, I have posed questions to kids and they have answered them.  That’s how the ‘teaching-learning-game’ works.  I ask a question, and they answer it.  Everyone knows that’s how learning takes place…. right?  Right? 

It all depends on the questions we are asking them.  If we ask simple questions, we’ll get simple answers.  If we ask more sophisticated questions, the hope is that we’ll get more sophisticated answers.  But the tragic flaw in this premise is that the teacher is the “keeper of knowledge”.  We are the ones who determine if the answers are correct or not.  How can we help our students become more responsible for monitoring their own learning, their thinking.  But how do we begin to teach students to become more self-aware?

The following three questions have completely changed the way I think about questioning kids and the thinking that I ask them to do:

1.  What are you learning?

2.  How do you know?

3.  What made you think that?

When we peel back the layers of learning, the routines of busyness of everyday work, it ultimately comes down to these things.  If kids can articulate the skills that they are learning, they can support their ideas and they can reflect on the thought process that brought them to their conclusions, then they are learning to be self-regulated learners.  By monitoring their own thinking, evaluating their own learning, and setting personal goals, they are engaging in a form of learning that is far more authentic (and important), than just being able to answer the trivial questions that I may pose at any given moment.  Who cares what I think…. I want to know what they think… and how they arrived at their thinking.

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3 responses

30 10 2011
Royan Lee

I love the simplicity with which you’ve written this post. I agree with you that metacognition is king. It’s the hardest and most powerful thing to learn.

30 10 2011
Lisa Donohue

Thanks Royan! I always find it the easier option to accept student’s answers at face value. But, it’s when we ask them to justify their thinking, that they really begin to gain a deeper understanding and reflect on the thought process that brought them to their conclusions.

4 11 2011
sheree

WONDERFUL! Simple does not equal easy!

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