You have all heard the rumors that technology will be replacing the teacher and that MOOC’s will make it possible to learn anything from home… Well, that just isn’t going to happen and here is why! Teachers are facilitators, they encourage and inspire learning, they differentiate content and they build strong relationships with students. Teachers are passionate about learning and they get kids excited about it too. They personalize the experience and go to all kinds of extremes to include all of their students and make the classroom an inviting and invigorating safe place. They engage and energize students and know how to manipulate intrinsic motivation. A teacher’s use of questioning to spawn critical thinking and initiate deeper learning may be the single most important caveat that gives them staying power.
As Dan Donahoo explains in his article titled, Curating Games-Based Learning, “Students don’t often learn directly from a game, they learn from an experience that involves a game, some activity around that, some critical thinking and engagement or questioning from a teacher. Just as students don’t learn directly from a textbook – the textbook is a tool that supports a teacher to facilitate learning.”
Today’s most effective teachers drive students deeper into the content being studied by preparing them to be investigators and problem solvers able to transfer what and how they learn across the curriculum and to real life situations. They focus on genuine learning rather than test scores. They not only want students to know and understand the concepts they are studying, they want students to gain and apply new insights about their world. These teachers ready students to ask their own how, what and why questions, and prepare students to build cognitive skills with clear objectives that lead to transfer later on. Here is a list of student goals that make the teacher an integral part of classroom learning that requires this deeper use of questioning to master:
- Aquire, apply and expand knowledge
- Work collaboratively
- Think critically and solve complex problems
- Communicate effectively
- Learn how to learn and in multiple ways using different solution strategies
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Jay McTighe at the ASCD Conference and over lunch we discussed the pros and cons of the CCSS and the importance of questioning techniques. Subsequently, in reading his book Essential Questions, written with Grant Wiggins, I came across these great reasons for building units around important kinds of vital questions:
- Signal that inquiry is a key goal of education.
- Make it more likely that the unit will be intellectually engaging.
- Help clarify and prioritize standards.
- Provide transparency for students.
- Encourage and model metacognition for students
- Provide opportunities for intra- and interdisciplinary connections.
- Support meaningful differentiation.
The use of deeper questioning is gaining traction and teachers need to prepare students to answer their own questions, to defend their own ideas, and to assess their own thinking and problem solving and promote self-directed learning. And that is only the tip of the iceberg of why teachers cannot be replaced!