How many times have you asked “why?” in your life? This three-lettered question has the power to unlock the true essence of a concept, making questioning in classrooms rather important. However, we do not ask enough questions when it comes to education. So far, in our 3-blog series on exploring education, we have learned the purpose of education and how it has evolved. With this write-up, we are concluding the series by looking into the need for questioning in classrooms.
The crisis of lack of questioning in classrooms
Let’s be honest. When was the last time you, a student, asked a question in class with confidence? When was the last time your teacher or peers didn’t give you an annoyed look when you did ask a question?
Unfortunately enough, answers to these questions would range from a few times to never. As a society, we are facing a crisis in education, perhaps a greater problem than the one posed by Covid-19: Lack of questioning.
To be fair, we all start as curious beings. As children, we annoy our parents to no end by asking question after question to understand the world around us. Oddly enough, the number of questions we ask during a class dwindles as we grow up. Is it because we are trained to passively accept information and dump it on paper during a test after cramming it in the previous night? This is sadly the reality of our education system today.
Education, however, was never passive, to begin with. We have the legacy of learning models like the Socratic method that bases teaching and learning on questioning in classrooms. Today, this method is limited to legal and medical education to encourage a deeper understanding of the concepts. However, it would be in the best interests of teachers, students, and the entire learning community, if we indulged in some effective questioning strategies.
How questioning in classrooms helps
We have established how we aren’t asking enough questions in classrooms. But, how can questioning in classrooms help further the learning process? Let us look at some benefits to understand the same.
In the current education system, we indulge in rote learning, where students memorize concepts without understanding their essence. The learning process (if any) ends in the classroom, as students feel no need to further explore the subject. However, questioning in classrooms can change this, making them curious enough to perform independent research. This makes them better learners.
More often than not, there is a gap between what teachers wish to convey and what the students interpret from a class. This leaves teachers unaware of how much their students understand a concept. Classroom questioning, however, can help bridge this gap. With effective questions, teachers can gauge the level of understanding and design their classes accordingly. This can ultimately improve the teaching and learning experiences.
A 2016 research on Retrieval Learning shows questions can help in improving the recalling and retention power in students. Even without the stats on this research, it is fairly obvious how questioning in classrooms can help retention. We ask questions when a concept or information interests us. This interest can then become an investment into the answer and understanding a concept. Therefore, students need to be encouraged more to ask questions.
An engaged class
Lastly, in-class engagement is significantly improved when students and teachers have a meaningful discussion over a concept. When this discussion is fueled by questions from students’ end and effective questioning techniques, lessons become interesting and the learning process is simplified. At the end of the day, education is (or at least should be) understanding concepts through an exchange of ideas. Classroom questioning facilitates this and more.
Asking why in education
So far, we have established the importance of asking questions in the classroom. While there is no dearth of questions that can be asked during a class, there is one that often gets sidelined in the questioning process: “Why? Why are we learning this concept/subject?” Students, today, simply accept information over wondering why they are being fed it in the first place. Part of the problem is the teaching community, as eloquently put by Elon Musk in a 2017 interview.
As teachers scramble to finish the syllabus set by an education board, students focus on getting grades. This approach to learning is the root of the problem. As a society, we need to move towards a classroom that asks and answers questions, including the whys in education. Teachers can play a great role in making this happen by creating an atmosphere that encourages students to indulge in classroom questioning.
When enough questions are asked in the classroom, we will see a revolution in the way education works. Don’t take our word for it, look at what Elon Musk has to say about this.
Asking why and the change in education systems
Students, today, simply accept information; education systems are no exception to this. Here’s how classroom questioning and asking the whys will change education forever.
A deeper understanding of concepts
Most students blindly memorize concepts and formulae without understanding why they are learning them in the first place. This hinders the learning process, as students don’t get the essence of the topic. On the other hand, when they understand the purpose of learning a subject, students are more likely to link it with real-life situations, leading to a deeper understanding of concepts.
Choosing what to learn
Yet another way classroom questioning and asking ‘why’ can help students is by giving them the freedom of choice. Currently, students have limited options on what they can and cannot learn. The biggest reason is the lack of understanding of the purpose of learning it.
When students understand why they are being taught a subject, they can make a conscious decision based on their life goals. This can potentially change the way schools and education work. While learning it all is okay for students who are yet to plan out their academic career, for those who have a clear idea of what they want to do in life, the freedom of choosing their subjects can be a great tool.
The curriculum that schools follow is set by boards of education, who design the same based on several factors, including the purpose. However, rarely do these curriculums serve the students and the goals they have. This is why a potential art major has to learn physics and math until they finish school.
When students understand the purpose of learning a subject and make a conscious decision over what and what not to learn, boards will need to change how they design the curriculum. Furthermore, teachers, too, will be held accountable for answering the questions students have and teach topics that help students on their chosen path.
Education, at its current state, requires a major revamp. With a lack of classroom questioning and understanding over the purpose of learning a topic, we are heading towards a generation of learners who have no clue about the real-world applications of what they learn. Teachers, therefore, need to encourage more questions and discussions within the class and intentionally explain the applications of a topic.
When students and teachers become a team, a revolution in education is not far behind.