Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Questions - the key to thinking, problem solving and communication

Kids who have the ability to ask questions, feel free and comfortable to do so in an environment that encourages questions and relationship are more likely to be self determined. Questions are the basis of any communication and learning and crucial to the expression of a kid's autonomy , his competence and relationships with his world.

 A Social- Moral learning 
  Scenario:  Young kids are playing in a kindergarten. Boy 1 grabs the truck from   boy 2. Asking a question would be more appropriate.
Boy 1 – can I play with your truck ?                                                                                  Boy 2  -  No !                                                                                                                                        Boy 1 – why don't you want to let me play with your truck ?                                                           Boy2 – Because – I am scared you will break it , won't give it back when I want it , I        have nothing else to play with etc                                                                                Boy1 – If I will ………..etc , will you let me play with your truck ?

Questions are the basis of all communication. They also drive our thinking, exploration and problem solving , and meeting our needs.

In our desperate attempt to help kids get the ' right behaviors, skills and answers'  we end up promoting static intelligence - ABA -and not the dynamic intelligence - RDI -that kids need to mediate their social-moral and intellectual world. Instead of focusing on compliance and answers we should be teaching kids how to think critically and creatively -  and focus on helping them to ask questions. Questions are the keys to thinking and communication. Any dialog, conversation, negotiation, problem solving etc revolves around questions. Questions and curiosity also drive their learning.

In the CPS – collaborative problem solving process, we focus on questions, concerns, problems, unmet needs and not the solutions. Once we ask the right questions we are open to brainstorm many alternative solutions. People tend to place the emphasis on answers, so they come to the table and present their concerns in terms of answers and solutions. An answer or solution is just one of many possible solutions to a problem or concerns. This results in the dueling of solutions or negotiation, instead of problem solving.

There is a saying – a good question is half the answer. Questions will help us focus on defining the concerns and problems.

Traditional approaches to both social-moral and academic learning focus on how to motivate kids to give teachers and parents the behavior and answers the parents/teachers want.

Sometimes when we are walking with kids and taking in the surroundings, we don't want conversation but to highlight things we have noticed and help kids to reflect. Here we can use ' rhetorical questions' -  did you notice … did you see  …   etc or we may make short comments and pause – which is a nonverbal invitation for the kid to think or reflect about the comment.

Game :  End your communication with a question
In order to encourage the use of questions in dialog and conversations we can play a game with kids.  Conversation and discussion revolves around statements and questions , make sure you close your communication with a question .

When we drill down for kids  concerns in the CPS process we model asking questions –

1 the wh questions – why, who . with whom, over what, what, when, how etc 

2 can you tell me more , can you explain etc  

3 can you explain what you were thinking, feeling etc during the problem .
If kids have difficulty  ask yes/no questions and then ask for  elaboration.  
  4 when ( under what conditions )  do/don't you have this problem  
 5 can you break down the activity into its different parts – what is difficult for you

B Questions are the foundation of academic learning

'Questions define tasks, express problems and delineate issues. Answers on the other hand, often signal a full stop in thought. Only when an answer generates a further question does thought continue its life as such.
This is why it is true that only students who have questions are really thinking and learning. It is possible to give students an examination on any subject by just asking them to list all of the questions that they have about a subject, including all questions generated by their first list of questions.
That we do not test students by asking them to list questions and explain their significance is again evidence of the privileged status we give to answers isolated from questions. That is, we ask questions only to get thought-stopping answers, not to generate further questions.'  -

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