I was teaching an MDCAT prep class. I wrote an MCQ containing a grammatical problem and invited comments and responses from the class.
Some of the students came up with their responses right away. Others were reluctant, wanting some encouragement. And there were yet others who were aloof, unwilling to come out of themselves. One of the girls, sitting by the wall, was particularly indifferent. I approached her and asked what she thought of the thing on the whiteboard. She hesitated for a moment and then answered my question.
After the class, she came to me and told me why she was sitting “dumb” in the class.
“I always love to ask questions in the class. But yesterday…..” she broke off.
And then she told me how one of her teachers had snubbed and derided her for asking a question.
“I felt so heartbroken and insulted. I didn’t have the heart to sit through the class. I felt like going home and never coming back. But I couldn’t…for my parents’ sake,” she sounded miserable. “I thought I had better sit silent rather than ask questions and get insulted.”
Why did the teacher in question do that? Was the student’s question stupid? Off the topic? Untimely? Unanswerable?
Maybe it was.
But the death of questions would be the death of knowledge, the death of progress, the death of civilization.
As a teacher, you must inspire and encourage questions rather than snub them. You should create and protect a culture that respects wonder and curiosity, the wellspring of all questions.
As a student, you must contribute to the learning process by asking questions. Your ability to learn is determined by your courage to ask questions. This is how you can take control of your learning. This is how you can spur learning, attract answers, and learn more in less time.
A class without questions is like a vehicle without wheels. And the knowledge thus acquired hardly goes beyond information. The prime objective of education is not to inform but to inspire. Not to tell the learners what is but to set them thinking what might be.
Asking a question is knocking on the door of possibilities.
Questions are half-answers. Half of the airplane was invented when someone came up with the question: how can I fly? The law of gravitation was discovered when the scientist questioned the simple, natural phenomenon of an apple falling from a tree. Every single invention, every great discovery was, first of all, a question.
No questions, no answers. More questions, more answers.
What do you think about the power of asking questions? How can use questions to spur learning, fuel innovation, and even improve our emotional intelligence? What holds us back? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.