Strategies for Reshaping Practice: The habits of the classroom #22

Ask big questions / change your questioning

Teachers can incorporate big questions in their teaching in order to stimulate curiosity. They can ask big questions themselves or encourage students/pupils to ask them. Big questions are questions of significance and meaning and each subject has its own questions and issues that teachers can focus attention on. For example, they can ask if we can measure everything in maths, or are there some things we can’t measure? Do we value these things more or less? Teachers can structure questions to direct learners to important issues such as interdependence in science. Questions can raise awareness and uncover things we take for granted, such as the idea that the world is ‘ours’. Teachers can pose questions about faith and values in subjects other than RE to break down the divide between sacred and secular.

  • Teachers can ask questions such as, ‘Where does our creativity come from?’ in music and ‘Can everything be reduced to our genetic make-up?’ in science. Teachers can provide a series of questions for a discussion about justice, forgiveness and peace in the Versailles Treaty in history.
  • Teachers can stimulate students to ask questions by holding an open conversation with another staff member about reason and faith or expose assumptions about the nature of love in German using a German song and a series of questions.
These examples show that thinking about questioning can make a difference to how we teach; it can focus our teaching on issues of importance.
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