Changing Questions When Planning For Learning (Part 1) | Steve Barkley

Changing Questions When Planning For Learning (Part 1)

I follow a blog written by JoAnna Haugen, the founder of Rooted. Rooted’s mission is to responsibly document, support, celebrate, and share sustainable travel-related initiatives that prioritize local communities and the planet – and to help others do the same.

Her recent blog was titled Reframing Tourism with Two Powerful Questions. JoAnna suggested that the traditional tourism model is based around two key questions: Where? and What?

  • Where are you traveling? Where will you stay? Where will you spend your days?
  • What are you going to do? What are you going to pack? What do you want to see? What do you want to achieve?

As I thought about that from a teaching perspective I wondered if the “where question” is where do I need to be by when? (Scope and sequence) and if “the what” question is what will I do to get the students there.Wooden blocks with words 'What's Your Why?'.

JoAnna recommended moving beyond where to the question why.

“Asking why encourages people to embrace a sense of curiosity and wonder, and forces them to probe more deeply about their reason for choosing to visit a certain place.”

Strategies for Why?

  • Suggest destination activities by theme or topic.
  • Help travelers define their interests and goals.
  • Share stories from local people and other travelers about their why.

When you know your why your what has more impact because you are walking in or toward your purpose.

(Michael JR)

‘Why?’ is a great starting question when planning for learning for both the teacher and her students. The teacher being able to identify why this content/standard/skill is important reinforces the investment of time and effort in creating a design for learning. The student uncovering that this learning has a payoff beyond a grade or credit motivates the investment of effort.

  • Suggest activities/themes/ questions – For teachers, I label this as “priming the pump.” Grant Wiggins’ description of an essential question can serve this purpose.

These are questions that are not answerable with finality in a single lesson or a brief sentence – and that’s the point. Their aim is to stimulate thought, to provoke inquiry, and to spark more questions…they are provocative and generative. By tackling such questions, learners are engaged in uncovering the depth and richness of a topic that might otherwise be obscured by simply covering it.’

A good essential question is…
Thought-provoking and intellectually engaging
Calls for higher-order thinking
Points toward important and transferable ideas
Raises additional questions
Requires support and justification
Recurs over time

Was the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s a success?

    • How does our behavior impact the environment and what can we do to help protect it?
    • Why do people move?
  • Help students define interests and goals. In a podcast, I described how students knowing their sparks can drive successful learning. Here is Search Institute’s description of the value of student sparks.

“Sparks are skills, talents, or interests that a young person finds deeply motivating. They are hidden flames in students that light their proverbial fire, get them excited, and tap into their true passions. When sparks are known and acted on, young people come to life-changing insights. ‘My life has purpose.’ Young people who have sparks in their lives, who have adults who support those sparks, who get joy and energy from using their sparks and who learn valuable life skills from their sparks are significantly more likely to do well in school, be more engaged, and be more hopeful about their future.”

Share stories from others about their whys.

A vivid, emotional story can give an extra push that makes information feel more real or more important. If you look at the times somebody’s beliefs have been changed, it’s often because of a story that “hits them in the heart.”

From an article, Here Are 3 Top SEL Strategies That Can Help Improve Student Engagement Right Now:

We can help students gain a true sense of real-world, meaningful application of what they’re learning in class by connecting them with real people from their community. With distance learning, there has never been an easier, or better, time to bring in “special guests” (via videoconferencing) who can share with students about their jobs and lives and how they’ve applied their experiences in school. The key is to invite guests who live in the same neighborhood as students and who reflect their ethnicity and experiences.

We should be teaching students to ask why. (Inner Drive Coaching)

  • Asking ‘why’ questions advances learning because it engages students in a topic. It forces them to think deeply about and listen to answers, developing curiosity. Research suggests that people who are curious about a topic tend to learn faster.
  • Being curious and asking ‘why?’ also helps students to develop a lens of critical thinking. This helps them to separate reliable information from untrustworthy information, rather than believing everything they hear.
  • Students should ask ‘why?’ not only about topic content, but also towards themselves. Self-reflection improves their understanding of themselves and their learning process. They can consider, for example, why they’re at their current performance level. Students who question themselves reveal gaps in their learning, which they can then fill. They identify their strengths and weaknesses, which they can then overcome.

“When teachers 1. Listen before they teach, 2. Help students find meaning, and 3. Support student autonomy, the answer to the question, “Why am I learning this?” becomes clear. By exploring “why,” students will feel learning is more relevant and are more likely to remember their learning, too.”

(Rhonda Bondie

In part 2 of this blog, I’ll explore JoAnna’s suggestion to move from “what” to “how.”

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