“The answers you have are only as good as the questions you’ve asked.” –Rebecca Trotter
Throughout all of my experience with Guided Inquiry, I have faced one recurring problem. Questions. How do I teach my students to craft quality questions? How do I teach my students think for themselves? How do I help my students appreciate controlling their own learning?
I have a feeling that if I were to discover the answer to this question, I would be able to retire on my private island. Really it’s more than one question, but like lions and tigers and bears, they seem to be inseparable. In order to teach my students to craft quality questions, I need to teach them to think for themselves, but in order to think for themselves, they need to control their own learning…. Yikes.
This isn’t a problem that I face alone. When Dana and I returned from CiSSL, we trained several other teachers in the full Guided Inquiry Design process. We continue to work with new teachers and, frankly, anyone who will listen about the importance of inquiry. Even when we cannot take a teaching unit through the full GID process, we keep inquiry at the heart of our teaching. We are working to create students who question rather than absorb information.
The magic happens when we create that third space where the students realize the importance of the learning in their own lives. When the classroom and life cross over and become one. That’s when our students truly begin to question. In order to get there, we have to move our students beyond looking to us to give them topics and ideas to pursue. They must come to those ideas on their own because they are the ideas that matter to the students.
Some of our students go there immediately. They come with ideas that need tweaked into questions. Others ask, “What should I do?” Not only do they not have a question, they aren’t sure where to start. Sometimes it takes longer to change the philosophy of our students than it does to change the philosophy of our teachers.
Eventually, our students will see that, in the words of Thomas Berger, “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” Crafting quality questions can improve not only education but life. Guided Inquiry isn’t just for the classroom; it is for all of us. In fact, my new philosophy is Question Everything.
English Department Chair
Jonathan Alder High School
Plain City, Ohio