When you teach kids to ask questions, what if they ask silly ones?
Blogger Jay Corrigan writes in...
Here is an example: In a biology class for pre-med, nursing and allied medical students a student asked what toilet paper was for. Other students started to laugh and thought it was a silly question. I suggested they stop laughing and I answered the question matter of factly. The student was from a culture that did not use toilet paper. The student truly did not know and needed to learn, so, asked a question. The question came up when students were discussing how hygiene helps in decreasing infection levels and how they could convey healthy practices to the people they worked with in clinical situations.
Sometimes, "silly" questions are really tough to answer; often, when someone asks me such a question, I have to think for hours before I get an answer!
We never want to make students feel bad about asking questions. This is very common when teaching students from different backgrounds and it is up to the teacher to guide the class toward better understanding of different cultures.
Sometimes we do laugh reflexively at a question, but it is important to laugh with the student, not at the student. (I was teaching in a very orthodox school years ago and the rabbi's son meant to ask about an edema, but used the word enema instead. Many of the students knew what the 2nd was and laughed. I smiled, explained the term and we went on.)
I KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
. . . .
Teach them how to ask questions, pursue enquiry and to retain enthusiasm for asking them. If this was treated as a life skill then learning STEM subjects could be more 'productive' to the system and more rewarding for the learner. It seems one of the great mysteries of formal education that spontaneity in asking questions progressively diminishes as children progress through the system - this ranges from the constant what, why, how of nursery/Kindergarten/Reception class to occasional grunts from reluctant teenagers who are driven to achieve grades rather than thinking and furthering their understanding of, of everything.
If we adopt what I call a "learning focused" curriculum instead of the "knowledge based" type frequently found in schools then asking questions is at the heart of the process, it is the engine that drives learning. In such a model we would see more open ended learning opportunities where asking questions is essential in guiding the learning. I wrote an article in my series on "Learning Intelligence" or LQ which explores the link with learning and creativity, a process full of questions. The link is: http://wp.me/p2LphS-4h
Perhaps the only silly question is the one that is not asked!