05 January 2006

The Power Of Questions

Over at Marginal Revolution, a group blog generally about economic issues, Tyler Cowen posted his "Macro Final," presumably a final exam in a college-level macroeconomics course he teaches. The last question was captivating:


5. Write your own exam question and answer it, do not use open economy macro as your major topic since three of the questions already cover that. The quality of the question matters as much as the quality of the answer.


"Write your own question" coupled with "the quality of the question matters as much as the quality of the answer" is the kind of exercise that should be applied to practically every academic course and almost every learning experience.

Asking questions--learning to ask the right questions--is one of the most valuable skills a person can have. Unfortunately, asking questions is considered "intrusive," "stupid" or "unnecessary" in many of Our schools, an attitude that says too much about how deficient the educational system and its practitioners are.

Asking questions opens doors to knowledge, and if combined with a method for developing useful questions, it then becomes the fastest path to knowledge. In addition, it helps you teach with greater effectiveness. For the doubters out there, it's called the Socratic Method and it's been around for almost three thousand years; there are plenty of reasons why.

Asking questions and developing skills to ask questions are at the root of critical thinking. Compared to the sawdust-level thinking that schools at all levels tend to require of its teachers and students, critical thinking is gold in all its malleable glory. Without questions, without curiosity and rational probing, few subjects can be learned and none can be mastered.

Even in the realm of the imagination, asking questions is fundamental. Almost every story and creative endeavor, from paintings to video games, begins with a question: What if? Science is built upon the structure of questions and more questions, an unending series of forays into the mysteries surrounding Us.

There's a time in a child's life when he or she suddenly becomes a question machine. It often seems as if they forget to speak in declarative sentences. It is not a coincidence that the amazing learning capacity of the child is directly linked to this "question-heavy" period. Thus, encouraging the child to continue questioning and teaching them to formulate better questions is probably the wisest investment in their education you will ever make.

For once a child learns to ask questions and self-produce better questions, his or her greatest potential is truly unleashed. It is never too late to learn such a valuable skill, but once you have it, do everything you can to pass it on.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

1 comment:

guile said...

nice, cozy place you got here :)..