I almost didn’t buy the book. After all, if the change the authors are suggesting is in subtitle, why pay for the explanation? How hard can this be? As it turns out, this book is one I have been recommending to others because it has been very provocative to my thinking and I believe it can help move learning forward for our students.
There is a healthy emphasis today on learner engagement and ownership. It is a good correction—after all, why should we accept that teachers in any Christian school would dull down the amazing creation of a fantastic Creator by teaching in ways that do not engage students? Furthermore, by helping students to ask their own questions, we are respecting them as image-bearers and respecting their minds. We are not only engaging them in the moment with worthy questions, but we are teaching them a lifetime technique that will serve them for years to come. We are helping them to think more clearly and to unlock their own motivation for further learning.
The epiphany for me, and why I am so ardently recommending this book, is the movement from the perfect “essential question” formulated by the teacher to really solid questions raised by the learner. If learners own the question, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated to continue their learning rather than merely responding to a teacher-posed question. What this book seeks to do is to spell out a process for working with students to help them develop worthy questions. Please understand that the teacher is not abdicating responsibility and is playing a key role in this process; we are simply shifting the focus a bit from teacher to learner. The teacher is still the one who is starting the student off with a “question focus” and setting the rules for good question development, playing the role of critical and encouraging guide.
The authors point out that by utilizing the “question formulation technique” (QFT) students actually practice three thinking abilities:
- Divergent Thinking—thinking about a wide range of possibilities and ideas
- Convergent Thinking—analyzing and synthesizing information and ideas, “boiling things down” in search of an answer or conclusion
- Metacognition—being able to think about your own thinking and learning
All three of these skills are practiced and mastered in the QFT process. Without going into detail (I suggest you buy the book!), here are the steps of the process, along with a brief explanation.