Questions – Who should be asking them?

“The curriculum is other people.”

Dave Cormier as guest presenter in EC&I 831

As in any profession, we spend time each teaching year in a variety of different professional learning activities. Often they are ones that have been directed by the division we work in and each presenter brings a unique perspective to the topic they are presenting. Sometimes we are able to relate to them and sometimes we can’t. Being able to relate to a presenter and really engage in what they are sharing is not only the responsibility of the audience but also the presenter. I bring this up because I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to learn with Dave Cormier in class this week! Dave was not only passionate about what he was sharing but he engaged us in the presentation and asked us to question our own thinking. He made the learning relevant and immersed us in the whole presentation. He did not just share with us what he knew but he participated in the side chat and incorporated the conversations from there into his presentation. It was a fantastic experience!

Not only were we provided the opportunity to engage in a                                               conversation with a great presenter, we also had the opportunity to6377086341_97c95172f7 do a great deal of learning and participate in some reflective practice. As an educator I feel like it is my responsibility to be reflective and ask myself questions around my teaching. This doesn’t always happen and it isn’t always easy. Factors such as taking the time (the time is always there we just have to make time for it), being willing to be better, thinking outside of what I know and being willing change are just to name a few. I think it would be fair to say that we must reflect in order to grow and be better. From reflection we must then participate in a process of growth.
Photo Credit: John Gorda via Compfight cc

One of the areas of teaching that I often reflect on is questioning. In many of our undergrad classes there were conversations around thick and thin or deeper understanding questions. I often wondered:

  • What did those look like?
  • How do I make sure I am asking a variety  of questions?
  • When should I ask certain questions?

I do think that there is a process of learning how to ask a variety of different kinds of questions and some students may need more modelling of this than others. At the same time, I think that kids are inherently curious and will ask questions without even being prompted to. If we make the choice to provide students with opportunities where they are required to ask more than surface level questions, will they not learn to always do that? I think sometimes as teachers we are guilty of giving students a learning task that they already know about or how to do. We need to challenge them more. As I was looking for information around questioning this week I came across the video below. I couldn’t help but wonder about what they were actually gaining from this activity?

As a primary teacher I struggle with the balance between providing my students with the skills they need to become an active and engaged learner and also providing them with opportunities to build knowledge, that some argue, they are going to need in the future. I use need loosely in that previous sentence because I think that Dave Cormier might argue that they don’t necessarily need that knowledge, that they will be able to access it at the click of a few buttons. If he were to argue that, I would 100% agree with him. However, the struggle I have is that not all educators see learning as having different levels. I want students who leave my classroom to be able to seek out solutions, create their own learning and engage in the process of building knowledge but what happens when they move to a classroom that requires them to learn in a more traditional way and not allow them to engage in the process of building their own knowledge?

In an article I read this week,  How to Determine if Student Engagement is Leading to Learning, the author discusses the idea of implementing technology into our teaching and the tie to engagement. The author shared that,

“Engagement should always translate into deeper learning opportunities where technology provides students the means to think critically and solve problems while demonstrating what they know and can do in a variety of ways.”

– Excerpted from the book, “UnCommon Learning: Creating Schools That Work for Kids,” by Eric Sheninger, published by Corwin, 2015. 

Whether it be technology or any other way of gathering knowledge I think we have to be critical of the purpose and ensure we are providing our students with the best opportunity to build their knowledge. I like to think that I am a teacher that is working towards creating a classroom that allows students to be creators of their knowledge and guides in their learning rather than students who just absorb knowledge I share with them, that they could find anywhere by typing a few words.  At times though I can’t help but worry about if I am helping them or providing barriers to success in their next class with a teacher that doesn’t share my same views? I don’t know the answer to this and would welcome any ideas, thoughts or questions around the idea.

 In class Dave shared his ideas around Rhizomatic Learning with us and that there are different levels of learning. He shared with us that there are simple, complicated and complex problems in life. The simple and complicated pieces can all be either googled or found but the complex ones require gathering pieces of knowledge from others and formulating those pieces to develop their own knowledge base that will be forever changing. It is my hope that I am providing my students with the skills to be able to grow in any classroom. For now, I will be working on offering my students opportunities to create knowledge and share what they have gained. I am taking that one step and one day at a time. It is my hope that I am providing them with the skills they will need to see success in the future. Here’s to hoping I am on the right track!




  1. Hmm you just made me think about how different ideas like genius hour look in primary classrooms. I think that you are right in the idea that primary students need a lot of modelling and structure. Does this mean you teaching them what they need to “know?” It might in terms of structure and routines.. Actual content. Hmmm.

  2. Nicole – great reflection of your own teaching and student engagement. As a high school teacher I too wonder if I am asking too many surface level questions – but then I am reassured that I am making my students think deeper when I simply respond with “that’s a good question!”. My students are now stating at the beginning of their questions to me “You probably aren’t going to answer this, but …” to which sometimes I will answer and others I will not. As Andrea stated above, I am trying to model deeper thinking and to empower my students to find/seek out the answers on their own.

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