My past semester I have developed an increased passion for inquiry based learning for all students, and this week we began a dive into this very topic. In CEP 812 we began reading Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question (2014) which explores the troubling problem of discouraging student’s ability and desire to question their world. One of the things that stuck out to me was Deborah Meier’s “Habits of Mind” and how this could be applied to my teaching. Berger discusses how students become less engaged, concurrent with their drop in questioning, and that teaching focuses on tests and curriculums content rather than creating learners who are capable of inquiring about the world (2014). Meier’s “5 Habits of Mind” are based on creating students who are curious, engaged and constantly inquiring, which is what creates better and deeper learning connections. The 5 habits include:
These 5 traits can be summarized as understanding why something matters, for what does it matter, what supports the value of something, how do we use it, and how could we change this. These different questions allows a student to question everything about what they are studying and fully understand or completely change their way of thinking about something. This could lead to revolutionary breakthroughs! An example is why do we have to have different devices for pictures, calling, music, and games, when we could have one device for everything?
When exploring this topic I began to think, how many times do we get these very questions from students (or my kids) and my answer is “because it just is”. Will this encourage their curiosity? In the technology driven world we live in, finding out “facts” is easy, and at our fingertips. We don’t need to just give facts, but we need to create learners, and inquirers. Teaching students how to question everything means we are creating a student who can change ANYTHING, improve anything, and who is always seeking improvement. This is what we want, someone who is constantly improving (themself, the world around them, their way of thinking, everything can always be improving).
In my job I am working in China, and this is a way of thinking that is very difficult to champion. My school is trying to become IB accredited and often times it is a struggle to explain the value of inquiry based teaching, because for centuries teaching has been one directional, and based on repetition. Below is a video that I constantly am thinking about that helps explain the difference.
I teach an IB class and I am constantly trying to break the mold of my students way of thinking and having them be questioning everything. I have even tried giving them wrong information at times to test if they are truly questioning everything, and using it as a chance to go back and show them how even if they are given information they can’t assume it is always correct. They need to question everything, and explore what piques their interest.
I am constantly trying to apply this to myself as well, and this is where it gets challenging. The two places I find most difficult to apply this is my own growth, and my parenting. When my curious 4 year old asks me for the 100th time “Why?” it is much easier to just say “Because I said” or “Stop asking” and I have to remind myself that this is exactly what she needs, and I want. Personally, I love seeing what others do around the world, how they do it, and why they do it, but I need to keep pushing myself to question everything, and constantly be trying to improve and remake my way of teaching. If, as a teacher, I stop questioning how can I expect my students to question.
As humbling as it may be, we as educators need to be open about this to our students (I teach high school, this is different for elementary), and tell them when we question things and change our perspective. It allows them to see failure is acceptable, and questioning should never quit. Questioning is good, and we, as educators, MUST encourage, foster, and even teach students the method of questioning their world.
Berger, W. (2014). A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas.