Sunday, May 19, 2013

Questioning tools

Marco Bellucci via Compfight cc

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a large professional learning event organised by the English Schools Foundation (ESF) for the teachers in the seven secondary schools run by ESF. Over 800 people attended with most of the many workshops being facilitated by teachers within the system. The  keynote speaker was Ian Gilbert (@ThatIanGilbert ) who was a very engaging speaker with many relevant and poignant comments about what teachers should be doing. Some of my tweets from the keynote which captured the essence of his talk ....

  • Teach children to read & write so they can reread & rewrite the world - tchrs need to fire them up to do this!
  • Can you help students be human? Who can be angry and act on this anger, unreasonable people who do not just comply
  • Teaching students to think ethically? Not just to be the smartest or cleverest. Be brave
  • Are you the best you can be? Are you as good as each other? Are your students going to save the world?
  • Professional learning is not what is done for you but what you do for yourself
  • Why do I need a teacher if I have google" Teachers need to be adding value by teaching critical thinking skills
  • Fear stops people being brave - taking risks - you end up just doing OK - not striving for best you can be.
I also attended a workshop on questioning tools which was presented by Monica Saez Aros where she shared with us the 8 way thinking questioning tools. I have only just now connected these tools to Ian Gilbert and his Independent Thinking Ltd Group. (See links above).

The 8 way thinking allow students to question beyond the obvious and start questioning more deeply - a topic is chosen, then questions are formed using each of the the 8 ways of the thinking which are ... 






  • Numbers
  • Words
  • People
  • Feelings
  • Nature
  • Actions
  • Sounds
  • Sights


  • The 8 way thinking planning wheel is available on the linked page above to download along with other information.  

    The group of teachers in the workshop were led through some activities which progressed from shallow obvious questions to quite deep questions which led to a discussion on how these questions could be developed in class activities. It was only an hour of scaffolding questioning, but very effective. It goes way beyond the who, what, why, when questioning tools. At the end we were asked to evaluate the questions based on the following criteria :

    Open – are there several different or competing answers?

    Practical – can you research it meaningfully given the available answer?

    Connected – is it relevant to you?

    Charged – does it have an ethical dimension?

    Provocative – does it make you question your basic assumptions?

    Deep -  can it be answered only with careful and lengthy research usually by being broken into subsidiary questions?

    I came away thinking about these questioning techniques and how the students in our Diploma program need to be formulating their own questions for their Extended Essay, and the independent research projects and how this scaffolding could be applied to their needs. It would also be of benefit to the PYP and MYP curriculums as they base their work on inquiry and questioning. 

    Do have a look at the links, and have a look at the examples and even apply them. I think you will find them quite powerful and effective.

    PS I shared this with teachers at our school, I received a reply from one Art teacher who had done a little more research and found this excellent blog post about the 8way thinking used in an art context. The questions the students have generated are fantastic.

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