The Art of Questioning

Place more value on questions than answers.

Photo of Meghan Cureton
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“What if our schools could train students to be better lifelong learners and better adapters to change, by enabling them to be better questioners?” 

-A More Beautiful Question

One of the key elements to nurturing curiosity is to invite questions. How will we know what kids are curious about unless we ask them? How will students articulate their curiosities if we don't give them space to ask really good questions? When will we, as a culture, begin to place more value on asking big, ambitious questions than reciting the correct answers? Here are some simple techniques and exercises that can get you focusing more on question generation than question answering:

The Five Whys: When solving problems, encourage your students to use the Five Why exercise to go beyond the obvious. It can help discover the root cause of the problem or at the very least, it can provide new angles to explore.

Encourage only Questions: For one class period, try having students only generate questions around a specific topic rather than search for answers to questions you generate.

Know / Need-to-Know: At the beginning of a task, unit of study, lesson or project have students generate a know/need-to-know about the given topic. Then provide time and space for them to explore the Need-to-Know before you step in and give any answers or direction.

Questionstorming: Instead of jumping right to solutions for problems, have your students practice questionstorming. 

    STEPS:

    1. Have a group of people start asking questions and write them down one-by-one. It’s important to not start a new question until the previous one has been recorded.
    2. As in brainstorming, refrain from judging, censoring, or discussing the questions as you collect them. The goal is to go for volume.
    3. The authors of The Innovator’s DNA suggest a goal of 50 questions. After that mark is reached, you can end the QuestionStorming.
    4. Group the questions by type. Common types are
      • What is? – These questions focus on facts and as-is situation
      • What caused? – These questions get at the root of a problem
      • Why? Why Not? – This type reflects the rationale behind a given problem space.
      • What if? – These are the questions that point to a different future and lead to real innovation.

    5. Prioritize the questions and pick the most relevant ones to discuss and develop further.

Model Good Questioning: Ask your students more questions than answers. Celebrate the questions your students do ask, and help them refine their questions. Unpack the questions you ask by explaining that you asking a question is a form of feedback.

Visible Thinking Routines: Use a VTR like Connect, Extend, Challenge that enourage students to leave room for questions as they learn new concepts or skills.

Metacognitive Questioning: Build in time for your students to question their own process in the learning. Encourage questions like how am I improving in my critical thinking skills through this project


How does this idea help to spark student curiosity?

Placing value on questioning, inquiry and exploration are absolutely imperative if we want to nurture curiosity in our student learners.

What grade level is this idea most appropriate for?

  • All of the above

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Photo of Paula
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Hi Meghan,

What a thoughtful well planned idea! Inquiry based learning!
I also love the idea of using a visible thinking routine as part of the process. Have you tried this in your class? How did it go. Would love to hear more. Cheers, Paula

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