The role of questions in learning!

“What did you learn, Terri?” I asked a student.question mark

“I didn’t learn anything, I just asked lots of questions” was the response.

I was surprised by this comment from one of my year 7 ICT girls following a linkup with students from another school in Melbourne. They had been placed in pairs and used Onenote to learn about each other. I know that she would have learnt a lot as she had asked questions, received responses and discovered the answers to what she wanted to know.

My secondary students also do not think that they are learning when they txt each other on their phones, add updates to their favourite social media sites or share images and videos. They have a ‘set’ view on what is ‘formal’ learning but do not pull that across to this wonderful informal learning.

A recent linkup with Melbourne Museum where students could Meet the Scientists virtually using polycom equipment, meant that they did not have the same opportunity as the f2f audience of students. However, Cameron Hocking had provided them with a backchannel, which some of our students used. There were many questions placed in that backchannel and many of them were also posed to the physical panel of scientists. Following is a sample of some of the questions asked of Dr Erich Fitzgerald, Palaeontologist, in the backchannel:-

  • Are whales your favourite?
  • Did whales once have legs?
  • did you help get that whale back into the water a few weeks agoless than a minute ago by jeremy ring
  • How do you name the animals or find out the names of the animals if you’ve never seen the animal or fossil before?
  • How big is the biggest fossil you’ve ever found? Emily year 6about a minute ago by The King David School
  • how many fossils have you find this year

Wherever possible, students should be given the opportunity to participate in a backchannel, whether it be one set up in eg todaysmeet or backchannelchat or in a virtual classroom eg blackboard collaborate, skype, MS Lync etc. It will provide a teacher with further teaching and learning opportunities, areas for research,  and greater knowledge of student interests and involvement in topics.

Do you get many questions from students? How important do you think that questions are? What role do questions play in learning?

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