6 days ago

The Importance of asking questions: Preserving a child’s wide-eyed wonder

In a system of education such as ours, which lays strong emphasis on scoring well on tests, it is rather convenient for parents and teachers to discourage students from asking questions. As Indian students grow older, their focus shifts to improving their memories to mug up more of what is written in books. What we are left with is a generation who is less inquisitive, less intuitive and unequipped to critically analyze and solve real world problems of the 21st century.

A child’s true nature is to discover, to know more about the world around and learn how to interact with it. Where a school should aid the child to explore and comprehend, our system feeds the child facts and pushes the child to memorise. Ironically, as soon as a child graduates from school, he/she is expected to have developed critical analysis, creativity and the art of deciphering solutions of real-world problems to become successful in a 21st-century workplace.

The only way to instill this confidence in students is to break the cycle of memorization and the habit of being spoon-fed information, and let him/her take the responsibility of learning. That only happens when a child is able to analyse what he doesn’t understand completely, and ask questions.

Questioning helps students to:

  1. Open up and feel comfortable
    Questioning helps students to acknowledge that there is more to know about a concept, and that knowledge is accessible even though the set syllabus doesn’t ‘recommend’ it. This makes them comfortable with the idea of ‘not knowing enough’ and puts them in charge of their own learning.
  2. Develop confidence and language skills
    Questioning and curiosity helps build confidence as well as helps a child build a more enagaging relationship with the educator. Asking questions includes explaining your doubts to the educator, listening and comprehending, thus improving articulation and language skills.
  3. Think beyond what is given
    What is taught in class is the tip of the iceberg. Once students start asking questions, their minds open up to scenarios beyond the given syllabus. It shows the student that the syllabus is not the boundary of knowledge to be attained and textbooks are not the only source of information.
  4. Develop critical thinking
    Questioning and inquisitiveness lead to improvement in critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The most important aspect of solving a business, scientific or mathematical problem is to ask what about that problem is evidently given and what needs to be solved for. And to develop a mind to think critically, one needs to develop the art of asking the right questions.
  5. Analyze and make connections
    The more answers a child gets, the more confident he/she becomes of his intuition, the more likely his/her gets to spot the missing links. Asking the right questions leads to building mental maps, which helps the mind co-relate information to connect the dots. This is essential for children to develop thought patterns, to analyse and to even break these thought patterns where needed to bring out creative ‘out of the box’ ideas.

How do we develop an environment of asking questions

  1. Create a comfortable environment in classroom where all feel encouraged to talk and ask
    Asking questions in front of peers puts a student in a position of vulnerability. The educator needs to address this issue and create an environment where students have a good rapport with the teacher and value their education and curiosity over the fear of seeming less knowledgeable. This can be done by incentivizing and promoting asking of questions in class and by encouraging all students to share their doubts freely.
  2. Model asking some good questions
    Good questions need to be promoted while steering the students towards making connections with earlier topics of study. This can be started by asking some model questions to help students think on similar terms and establish critical thinking. You could put up keywords in the classroom like why, what, how, who, when, where etc. these questions might probe students to think more.
  3. Appreciate every question
    Incentivizing and encouraging students who ask questions will motivate and create a healthy environment in class. Appreciation leads to an increase in comfort level and builds confidence.
  4. Make sure all questions are answered by the teacher or peers
    All questions must be encouraged and answered to promote and create an inquisitive culture in class. If there isn’t enough time in the class, teachers must take care to answer them individually for the students outside of the classroom hours.
  5. Feel free to share if you do not know the answer, but find answers for children
    This helps students understand that the teacher takes their questions seriously and that answers would be provided to each relevant question. It also helps them become comfortable with the vulnerability attached to not knowing.