Why asking questions might not be the best way to teach

Some years ago, one of my students asked me this question: “Why is it that whenever I ask you a question, you always respond by asking me a question?”

I was tempted, of course, to say “Why do you think I do that?” But better judgment prevailed, and I resisted the easy answer. Instead, I explained why I often do that. But it did get thinking about whether it’s a good idea or not.

Actually, I think I don’t ask enough questions. Teachers like to be helpful and like to impart information, so it’s all too easy to tell instead of asking. My professional goal for last year and this year has been to tell less and get students to think more. But then I read a Time article with a provocative headline that I recycled for this blog post. Maybe my thinking was wrong; the headline certainly suggested that possibility.

Unfortunately — or maybe fortunately — the article did nothing to change my thinking. First of all, although it refers to Plato’s famous dialog about learning geometry, it is really about Law School rather than high school. Second, it doesn’t pose any alternative, so there’s no control group, no null hypothesis, no experiment here. Asking questions as opposed to doing what? So I don’t think I’ll change my views after all.

Or should I?

Categories: Teaching & Learning