InQuiring Minds: Reaching Deeper Learning Through Questions

This issue of inQuiring Minds focuses on problem-based learning and deeper learning as a result of asking questions.  The articles below underscore how individual- and group-led questioning relates to these two themes and ultimately, leads to a myriad of positive outcomes including increased engagement and greater understanding.

In this article, The Critical Thinking Community highlights the impact that asking questions can have in reaching deeper levels of understanding.  Without asking questions, one can never arrive at any substantial answers.  They write that, “…students need questions to turn on their intellectual engines and they need to generate questions from our questions to get their thinking to go somewhere. Thinking is of no use unless it goes somewhere, and again, the questions we ask determine where our thinking goes.”

“One of the great secrets to fostering deep learning is the ability to help students raise new kinds of questions that they will find fascinating.”  – Ken Bain

Jackie Gerstein wrote a blog post that encompasses many reasons why asking questions is so crucial for student learning.  She shares that, “Questioning comes naturally to children and seems to become a lost art and skill as people age” while citing numerous authors and their work, including our very own Right Question Institute!

Anecdotes are always a wonderful way to convey knowledge and experiences.  In this blog post, the writer explains that his children became so much more interested in writing and refining their own menu while making pizza at home (instead of having someone tell them exactly what to do and how long to spend on designing their work).  Curiosity-based research, led by personalized questioning, results in greater excitement, personal leadership, and investment in the topic at hand. 

Louise Rasmussen advises learners to avoid catching the “Lazy Learner Syndrome” or “Total Recall Delusion” by asking questions of themselves.  By self-generating questions, students can keep their “head in the game” and truly understand the material.  Read her article to find out more!

The QFT includes a reflection component that guides participants through reflecting on the overall question development process and, in this blog post, Maryellen Weimer likewise discusses metacognition or the art of “thinking about thinking”.  Weimer explains that students should be thinking about how they learn and classroom leaning should be structured around questions that they have.  Students should continually engage in the subject material by writing down questions throughout the class period, gathering answers to their questions, and debriefing any topics or lingering questions at the end of the period to maximize learning and involvement.

Our students are not the only ones who can benefit from formulating questions and opening up discussions.  This is a great piece on problem-based learning from the perspective of a secondary school Principal, Cale Birk.  He asserts that administrators should be modeling deeper thinking and facilitating conversations among their staff members rather than making directives and assigning duties.  By turning the discussion around so that staff members are asking questions and leading the problem solving, the task then “requires the collective expertise of the group”.

In an interview with Ken Bain, he underscores the importance of questions driving deeper levels of understanding at a college level.  This contrasts with the current college environment where students are routinely expected to learn by memorizing and regurgitating answers.  Mr. Bain shares that, “People are most likely to take a deep approach to their learning when they are trying to answer questions or solve problems that they have come to regard as important, intriguing, or just beautiful. One of the great secrets to fostering deep learning is the ability to help students raise new kinds of questions that they will find fascinating.”


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