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Asking Good Questions

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I've recently noticed that I don't have the knack for questioning. 


With life in general, I don't know that this matters much.  I listen to conversations, gather plenty of information, and I am definitely not nosey (in the slightest!) I fall into the "Good Listener" category.


With schooling, I'm beginning to feel that this tendancy is a bit of a problem. I accept things I read at face value, and I have the toughest time formulating probing questions for history of science writing.  When I find sample questions in textbooks, I am often annoyed that my brain just doesn't attempt to synthesize information or find patterns etc.


My eldest is just beginning to really think deeply, my second has a very probing mind, and my third is constantly questioning.  I want to make sure I challenge them, and since we generally blaze our own trail as far as history and science are concerned, I don't have teacher's guides to help me broaden how they see things.


Has anyone run into anything that helps teachers formulate good questions?



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I don't know if this will help at all.  But when I was in middle school, I had a class where we had to keep a journal.  I thought I was pretty good at writing and relatively insightful.  But I consistently got my journal assignments back with B's and C's, along with questions like "Why?" and "How do you know?" and "Why is this important to you?" written back to me.  Somehow, a year of someone challenging what I thought completely changed how I saw the world and how I viewed those who were in teaching positions.  Before, I had been the quiet kid that just regurgitated information.  After that year, I was the kid that the good teachers loved and bad teachers hated, because I had learned that it was okay to question things, and even that doing so was desirable and necessary for learning.

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My kids are a lot younger than your oldest, but I am very much the same way that you described. Google "Socratic questions/ -ing" and see if that helps. Socratic questions probe deeper issues and can be applied to anything you are learning or reading about. I purchased the DVD seminar, Teaching the Classics, which helps kids analyze literature and helps you as the teacher ask those types of questions. I'm trying to do it to myself as I read right now and hoping I get more comfortable with it when my kids get a little older.

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Here's a list I found that looks pretty good.... maybe it will help you.  Helps me!


1. Questions for clarification:
  • Why do you say that?
  • How does this relate to our discussion?
  • "Are you going to include diffusion in your mole balance equations?"
2. Questions that probe assumptions:
  • What could we assume instead?
  • How can you verify or disapprove that assumption?
  • "Why are neglecting radial diffusion and including only axial diffusion?"
3. Questions that probe reasons and evidence:
  • What would be an example?
  • What is....analogous to?
  • What do you think causes to happen...? Why:?
  • "Do you think that diffusion is responsible for the lower conversion?"
4. Questions about Viewpoints and Perspectives:
  • What would be an alternative?
  • What is another way to look at it?
  • Would you explain why it is necessary or beneficial, and who benefits?
  • Why is the best?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of...?
  • How are...and ...similar?
  • What is a counterargument for...?
  • "With all the bends in the pipe, from an industrial/practical standpoint, do you think diffusion will affect the conversion?"
5. Questions that probe implications and consequences:
  • What generalizations can you make?
  • What are the consequences of that assumption?
  • What are you implying?
  • How does...affect...?
  • How does...tie in with what we learned before?
  • "How would our results be affected if neglected diffusion?"
6. Questions about the question:
  • What was the point of this question?
  • Why do you think I asked this question?
  • What does...mean?
  • How does...apply to everyday life?
  • "Why do you think diffusion is important?"


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Thanks all, the Hive is amazing!


Rosie, I am a good questioner in the fields that I have chosen professionally, and I have always been a better at questioning scientifically (mainly because questioning was taught as an integral part of science, and I always was a very dutiful student). I do think that you are on to something; history was taught as a series of dates and firm facts, and we were never encouraged to question. Consequently, my grasp of history is pretty rudimentary - I don't think I'm truly at a rhetoric stage, although I do read quite a bit, and I try to find podcasts and such to fill me in.


Tracy, I envy that aspect of your education, and perhaps that is the essence of what I'm hoping to do with my kids, encourage them to question. We do journaling, and that sounds simple enough that I could do it.


Phoenix, I need to educate myself more about the Socratic method. I've looked into it and it seems easy enough, but I've never actually put it to use. We do discuss our history readings and this seems like the ideal time to try. My questions are usually along the lines of, "Did you understand the author's point?"


Robsie, what an excellent list, Thanks! This is the sort of framework I need to start formulating good questions for writing assignments. I'm printing this out and saving it :-)


Thanks again for all the help. I was originally hoping for a list (which I got -yay!), but your answers are helping me understand something that I want to work at changing about my schooling and myself.

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