How do we teach kids to ask great questions? More importantly why is it important that we teach kids to learn how to ask great questions? Wait a minute! Kids are born curious. Kids begin asking great questions pretty much as soon as they learn to talk. If they (we) are born that way, what’s the problem? Could it be that we have been teaching the wrong things?
I recently read this Daily Riff Classic post, Would You Hire Your Own Kids? 7 Skills Schools Should Be Teaching Them by Tony Wagner . Wagner you may know from one of his many books on leadership, education or more recently from his newest release Creating Innovators – The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. Several things popped out from both the article and reviews of his new book.
Ask the right questions
What employers value has changed. It used to be that a skill set directly related to your profession ensured you of a job or at least got you in the door. Not so much any more. Here’s what Clay Parker said about what he looks for in a prospective employee.
“First and foremost, I look for someone who asks good questions. Our business is changing, and so the skills our engineers need change rapidly, as well. We can teach them the technical stuff. But for employees to solve problems or to learn new things, they have to know what questions to ask. And we can’t teach them how to ask good questions – how to think. The ability to ask the right questions is the single most important skill.” Clay Parker
Parker goes on to say that the ability to take part in a discussion was the second thing he looked for. The ability to work effectively on a team that may be at least partly virtual and diverse requires a different skill set. Are we teaching kids the right skills, in the right way? In my day the teachers asked the questions and we the learners attempted to answer. So the modeling was there. Did we collectively just not get it? Or where they asking the wrong questions and modeling the wrong way to ask questions? Or, was it that back in the day what they were doing worked. That educational system produced a society of people primed for the work environment that existed, then.
What kids need to know now
In the Global Achievement Gap Wagner identified the core competencies that kids need to learn in school to take their place in today’s work environment.
- Critical thinking and problem solving – the ability to ask the right questions
- Collaboration across networks and leading by influence – not command and control tactics
- Agility and adaptability
- Initiative and entrepreneurialism
- Accessing and analyzing information
- Effective written and oral communication – not just grammar and punctuation but finding your own voice
- Curiosity and imagination
The flipped classroom
The education system is not detached from this emerging need for new literacies. One of the most interesting discussions right now is about the flipped classroom. The initial idea of the flipped classroom was that the lecture or didactic information sharing would occur as homework, usually in the form of video or podcast leaving in-class time for “doing”. That definition, courtesy of The Daily Riff, has expanded to include:
- A means to INCREASE interaction and personalized contact time between students and teachers.
- An environment where students take responsibility for their own learning.
- A classroom where the teacher is not the “sage on the stage”, but the “guide on the side”.
- A blending of direct instruction with constructivist learning.
- A classroom where students who are absent due to illness or extra-curricular activities such as athletics or field-trips, don’t get left behind.
- A class where content is permanently archived for review or remediation.
- A class where all students are engaged in their learning.
- A place where all students can get a personalized education.
I’m going to end this with another great example of transmedia, a recent Twitter #PTchat about the flipped classroom Storified by Joe Mazza. It’s long, a testament to the level of engagement in the topic, so will add a question here – How do you encourage great questions?