Why Questions Are Extra Necessary Than Solutions
by Terry Heick
Think about the dogged pursuit of a correct clock-maker, day after day certain up in design and measurement and performance and orderly considering, forcing exactitude on little bits of steel that by no means requested for it. After which lastly getting it proper–so many selections and issues of design all of a sudden set the clock off ticking without end.
Get contained in the thoughts of a clock-maker—one who nonetheless experiments with issues of design, enhancing their craft with minor revisions of planning and execution—and all of a sudden you’re seeing from floor zero how issues come to be, first in a humble glow, then a blinding white starlight that bleaches all the things.
There’s a lesson right here. However first, some background on questions–and unhealthy questions, particularly.
The Irony of Dangerous Questions
Briefly put, questions are extra necessary than solutions as a result of questions search and body and expose whereas solutions, at their greatest, are short-term responses whose accuracy adjustments and shift and decays over time, needing to be reformed and remade and reevaluated because the world itself adjustments.
In fact, questions have to be up to date too. And like ‘incorrect’ solutions, there could be unhealthy questions. There’s an irony to unhealthy questions, in that they are often harder to reply than an excellent query.
Questioning is the artwork of studying. Studying to ask necessary questions is the most effective proof of understanding there’s, far surpassing the short-term endorphins of an accurate ‘reply.’
So what makes a query unhealthy? Effectively, that relies on what you assume a query ought to “do.”
Produce a pleasant and tidy reply?
Trigger a scholar to rethink a place?
Power somebody to return and look extra carefully at how they know what they know?
All make sense, and an excellent query can do all of that.
However a nasty query? They halt, freeze, deflate, and derail considering.
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Merely put, unhealthy questions are complicated questions.
That’s to not say that good questions shouldn’t be difficult and that college students may not hit a spot the place they really feel confused. They may. However a challenged learner and a confused learner are usually not the identical.
It’s not all about ‘rigor’ both. Dangerous questions could be rigorous—pressure learners to assume on higher-level planes—synthesis, analysis, shut evaluation—and nonetheless be unhealthy.
The Hallmark of a Dangerous Query
A foul query could be judged so as a result of it will get on the incorrect content material, is filled with pointless jargon, or is syntactically corrupt.
However greater than the rest, probably the most telling hallmark of a nasty query is that it encourages learners to guess what the instructor’s considering.
To attempt to get into the thoughts of the question-maker.
This, thoughts you, is decidedly totally different than understanding the thoughts of a clock-maker. A clock’s design conjures up design considering. What that clockmaker was considering issues.
However a query maker is just not a clock-maker–totally different, at greatest solely a mediator between the scholar and content material. Their intent could be noble, well-researched, and justified, however the maker can’t—or shouldn’t–linger like an excellent query.
There’s additionally the troubling matter of timing. Ask even the best query on the incorrect time, and reasonably than front-loading, priming, scaffolding, or inflicting curiosity, college students find yourself bewildered, their considering scattershot, internalizing all of the incorrect issues—social expectation, tempting recall, your relationship with them, or their very own nervousness with the content material.
Hardly ever, although, do they sit with the content material and its context and metacognition, however reasonably the query itself and the false promise of an accurate response.
The Abstraction of the Query
The suitable query on the proper time could make a studying expertise, as a result of greater than something learn, drawn, and even written, a query is acute and correctly troubling. It creates a needle-point of sunshine even because it suggests darkness.
Even when it’s multi-part and inclusive, it’s one way or the other singular.
It jabs and fingers at a learner’s thoughts, then burrows in like a drill.
A foul query is sloppy—it doesn’t burrow anyplace, however bangs round and makes a troubling noise. It forces the learner to return to the query and frown and decode. Decoding could be cognitively demanding and thus useful, however not if it mars the scholar’s considering.
A exact, well-timed query retains the learner within the content material, in their very own thoughts, within the thoughts of mannequin considering—within the thoughts of the clock-maker and never the question-maker.
A foul query additionally creates the phantasm of an end-point to considering—of the scholar having arrived at some place the place they perceive the thoughts of the clock-maker. And when that occurs, all the things simply form of dissolves, they usually sit passively and wait for one more query, considering they’ve received.
This, in fact, is tragedy. The thoughts must not ever exhale, however grapple! Wrestle with a textual content, an idea, or a query till they’ve discovered a brand new query is healthier suited to the duty. Taking a bit of literature, an engineering drawback, or an moral concern and decreasing it to a collection of query is a harmful form of reductionism.
Questions are hyperlinks to different questions, and that’s it. Little fragments of curiosity that get on the marrow of necessary points that resonate and thrum and linger. Statements of opinion, solutions, and different lies are fantastic, offered they transfer apart to let the questions by means of.
Whenever you ask questions—on exams, in particular person, in your subsequent Socratic dialogue—insist on good questions. Nice questions. Mannequin their improvement. Revise their wording. Toy with their tone. Simplify their syntax or implications over and over till the confusion has been bleached and there’s solely considering left.
Till the query asks precisely what it ought to, and nothing extra.
Lock the scholars out of your head—and away from guess-what-the-teacher’s-thinking, proficiency, false confidence, and overly-simple labels of ‘understanding.’
As an alternative, encourage them contained in the thoughts of the clock-maker. Allow them to huddle, and sit in awkward silence.
Allow them to assume you’re a bit of bit loopy.
After which look ahead to the questions.
Look ahead to the glow.
This put up has been up to date from its unique publishing in 2012; Why Questions Are Extra Necessary Than Solutions