Types of questioning…

Most kids have largely been told what to do by a teacher their entire school lives. That innate curiosity of a pre-schooler has been dulled through reinforcement that what the kid wants to learn is not valuable — stick to this format, follow the teacher’s plan, do what the teacher wants to get good grades — the learner’s own questions be damned!

Sometimes, it takes a long time for a kid to come around to trusting in their own questions as their curriculum (sometimes this never happens). We have tried to guide them through thinking in 5 types of questions. Ultimately, this is what we want every learner to go through with each inquiry to expand and deepen their learning:

  1. Values Questions — What’s important?
  2. Systems Questions — How does this work?
  3. Cause and Effect — Where will this lead?
  4. Theoretical Questions — How did we get here?
  5. Descriptive Questions — What happened?

In my experience, kids are mostly used to the descriptive questioning. They need help to broaden and deepen their lines of inquiry using all the types of questions above. It is difficult to do. There is so much unlearning to be done.

Not all of the types of questions may apply all of the time, but I am rarely stumped on developing almost any question with learners.

An example topic that one of my kids was pursuing: Should Korea unify? It is a good question. I have actually studied this question in depth at university. There are so many angles to it, it provides an interesting snapshot on human affairs. We went through the types of questions:

Values: What really is important about life? We have had numerous conversations about the North Korean lifestyle and how it compares to our own.

Systems questions: Of course, there is the Communist system. Interestingly though, the route that we took through this inquiry was looking at how nature has flourished in the DMZ over the last 60 years with no human involvement (landmines!); looking at how ecosystems regenerate and how wildlife bounces back quickly. We have discussed the role human beings are having on natural systems.

Cause and Effect: This one is so interesting as there are so many outcomes with re-unification. The North is so far behind. Think of all the progress that has happened in the last 60 years. Think about how far advanced South Korea’s technology is — the fastest internet in the world! What happens when one million North Korean soldiers go looking for a job? Fascinating conundrum.

Theoretical: This one was slightly more challenging for this inquiry, but this learner thoroughly researched the conflict in the Korean War, both militarily and ideologically. We looked at the motivations behind key players and why we make the decisions we do.

Descriptive: This type of question tied in with the others.

This is challenging. There are only a few who have been doing it well. It requires a large skill set underneath as well as considerable one on one time with a teacher. It comes back to the role of the teacher being able to facilitate kids to learn how to learn. The ultimate goal of a teacher is not to be needed. This is a huge process, and some students don’t ever get there, but it is what needs to happen in our education systems today. The pace of knowledge creation is just too fast for the stand and deliver method to handle. Kids have to know how to learn anything and creatively represent it.