Wonderful feedback from a wonderful conference! (Question-posing)

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I attended the glorious IERG (Imaginative Education Research Group) conference these last few days, where I presented a workshop on some of the curriculum practices that I've been posting to this blog! After presenting our ideas to about a dozen wonderful people, I asked them to scribble their radically honest feedback on some posterboards I scattered around the room. The transriptions of their comments (with some grammar corrections and clarifications) are beneath the jump!

Question-posing / Answer-hunting

Big questions about cosmology bridged with traditional stories & narratives.

I think this commenter is saying "incorporate many cultures' stories about the beginning of the universe into your Big Spiral History curriculum, and use those stories to ask the questions that matter!" If I'm interpreting this rightly, then check! We're doin' it!

Questions are so important, but you can have a question on some "content". So, productive questions are generated in the "quest for some content". So I question making question posing an independent period.

Ah, I love this! Of course we do want kids to be asking questions throughout the school day — in math and history and everything! There's some danger that other people (or even the kids, and future teachers) could interpret a separate question-posing period as meaning that we shouldn't ask questions thoughout the learning experience.

Any thoughts on how we should delineate this?

Philosophy for Children.

Yes — and actually, I attended the semi-annual international Philosophy for Children conference earlier this week! Earlier I had posted that we wouldn't have a special P4C (oh, we educators and our acronyms) period — that we'd rather infuse it through the day — though now I'm wondering if that's wise. Maybe we should have a period a few times a week that just aims at philosophical conversation. Or maybe we should infuse our fiction curriculum (which I've yet to post on) with philosophical pondering.

"What questions did you ask today?": an alternative for parents to ask when their kids come home from school, instead of "What did you do in school today?"

OH MY GOSH YES! This is great way of engaging parents into the educational process!

An interesting question comes from this: should we encourage students to take their commonplace books home, or to not take them home?

At some point Skype an expert... from anywhere! After kids get great questions ready!

Yes! Why didn't I think of this?!

Imagine that kids had gotten interested in what fire is. Though this is a simple question, it's doesn't have a simple answer (or, at least, its simple answer is not at all intuitive, and requires an in-depth understanding of a lot of chemistry).

The kids shouldn't ask an expert when they're just starting to explore the question. First they should debate the question among themselves and parents, then they should look for explanations in books, and maybe finally they should look for online sources (this video may be the best on the web).

Only after they've gone through all that, and continue to discuss the matter, should we bring in an outside expert. And imagine the questions the kids would have at that point: questions about real chemistry, asked with an understanding with what the "book answer" says, and with a understanding that they don't understand what it means.

Our grade schoolers may be able to ask more scientifically-brilliant questions than undergraduates.

Maybe I'm being too optimistic: we'll see. But I think we can use teleconferencing to help our kids attain a level of understanding far, far beyond what most K-12 students are able to even imagine.

If asking an expert turns out to be as powerful as we hope it is, we might want to cultivate a small number of experts with whom we have regular calls — maybe once a month, for 15 minutes or so. (I'm imagining a chemist, a historian, a mathematician, a biologist, an engineer, and so on.) We could award those experts a teaching honorific — something for them to feel pride in, and put on their C.V.

Instructions/Background on how to develop a good question or just go with intrinsic abilities and develop along the way?

Great question — I think the answer is to start with kids' skill in asking questions, and tease out an art and science to asking better questions.

There are a few frameworks I think we'd be wise to consider — The Right Question's framework most of all. (We should probably collect a list of potential frameworks.) There might be wisdom in having a framework ready to bring in shortly, as soon as we can identify the ways in which our students' questions are being stymied.

T'morrow, I'll post on the responses we got from the Public Speaking curriculum.

Brandon Hendrickson

Seattle, WA