If you want to ignite curiosity, leading learning with student questions is a proven way. This is the foundation of inquiry-led instruction. But it can work whether you follow the exact methods of inquiry-led instruction or not. 98% of educators say that driving class dialogue from good student questions helps everyone in class learn.
Then why is it so hard to get students to ask good questions?
This is a problem that has challenged teachers since the dawn of modern education. Everyone has had the experience of opening up time for questions in class and hearing.....crickets. And this isn’t just a problem limited to physical classrooms either. One look at most classes LMS will tell you that this student behavior is the same online as it is offline. As a result, there has been a range of research and thoughts on this topic. Here’s a roundup of the most commonly cited reasons we found most useful:
Top Ten Reasons Students Don't Ask Questions
- Students don't understand why asking questions is important.
- Students need help to formulate good questions.
- Good questions don’t occur to students while they are in class.
- The student isn’t curious about the subject and needs inspiration.
- The student is so utterly lost, they don't know where to start.
- The student is an introvert who doesn’t naturally engage in dialogue.
- Fear of asking a dumb question.
- Fear of looking uncool or like they are kissing up.
- Fear that everyone, teachers included, will think their time is wasted.
- There isn't enough time in class to discuss open ended questions.
This is a complex issue. There are intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, social, environmental and logistical factors. If educators are serious about igniting student curiosity, simplistic fixes like an anonymous question boxes won't cut it. Fixing it requires a culture change. Creating an environment for psychological safety. And positive routines that reflect and overcome these complexities.
There are pioneering educators that have established the way forward and there are inspiring articles on the subject to help you get started, including these ones from Edutopia and Global Digital Citizen.
Teachers need to find a way resist these factors. This takes work and persistence. One way to make this easier is to invest in a building a space for inquiry outside of the classroom. Specifically, in a software platform designed to help you do this. Like a virtual question box, without the limitations. This has the practical value of taking this dialogue outside the four walls of your classroom and make it available to students anytime. But it can also give you a fresh start to build a new culture and provide you with tools that help you get started.
Recap is a free Q&A platform where questions go to flourish. It comes with a question gathering queue that helps you privately collect, give feedback on, share and drive dialogue from student questions. It also has tools to help you ignite curiosity and assess students that help you overcome anyone's apathy to learn.