If you think about the questions that most of us hear or ask during the day, they are fairly easy to answer:
Most of those are so routine, so commonplace, that they often don’t even require too much thinking for an answer:
In fact, I have started to believe that we collectively are beginning to lose the skill of questioning, not only in our personal lives, but also in our professional lives as well. Not because we don’t want to know, not because we have not been trained at how to question, but because we are getting very good at accepting answers that have minimal thought in them. “Yep” and “No” might technically be the correct answer but it also is the lazy answer. In a time of rushed classes, too many standards to cover and tests we have to take, slowing down to think about answering to the answers is probably far from many educators minds. How often do we ask a question to someone, a colleague, a student, a parent, expecting them to give us the same answer that we have already formulate on our minds? How often do we get the answer we want and simply move on, not
Recently I watched a class being taught and it occurred to me that every question that was being asked and answered required pretty low level recall type question. No one was being challenged, not the students nor the teacher. The teacher appeared, at least to me, to be asking the same questions that she had been asking for years, and the students were responding in the same manner that they have been doing for years. The teacher knows the answers, The students know how to answer, it was more of a routine that both groups had grown accustomed to.
I then went to an administrators meeting where, during the “Any Questions” portion of the meeting, the only questions asked were clarification type ones..”Did you say…? “and “Can you repeat…?” Again, low level questions, low level answers, no true thinking required.
I wondered if students teachers and administrators sort of had the same kind of mindset when questioning? They don’t want to challenge too much, they don’t want to stand out, they don’t want to be seen as anything other than good students/teachers/administrators. If they ask questions that may make the receiver uncomfortable, do they fear retaliation, a bad grade, a poor evaluation? Have we
That got me thinking about how when we as educators get together in our Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) do we treat that space the same as we treat our classroom space? Are the questions we ask already answered for us? Do the people know the answers to the questions we are going to ask? I think in many many cases, the answer is a simple “Yes.”
I am starting to believe that the best kind of questions, especially in PLCs, are those that make people uncomfortable. Those that put a little sand in your shorts while playing in your sandbox. Irritation is not always a bad thing.
Does your PLC ever ask questions about teaching strategies? Which ones work, which don’t? Do they ever call someone out for using bad techniques? Does the school as a whole ever do any kind of retrospection, like ask if the students are happy? Does what we do here work? How do we know we are successful? What is it like to be a student at our school? If we could make one change a week for the 36 weeks of school, what would each one be?
Those are the ideas behind my book “180 Questions: Daily Reflections for Educators and Thier PLCs.” The questions are designed to be a bit irritating. But that irritation is designed to stimulate conversation. Many PLCs have lost the ability to ask real questions about teaching and learning at their campuses.
A sample of questions from the book might look like:
Those are just a small sample of the questions designed to get educators thinking about education, not just data points, not just standardized tests, and not just getting from point A to point B ina curriculum guide. We need to ask ourselves questions about how we teach, what we teach, even why we teach.
If we are not being professionally irritated once in a while, then we we grow stagnant. Asking ourselves what we are doing as educators every once-in-a-while is a good way to keep growing personally professionally.
If you are not getting sand in your shorts, then your digital sandbox is too comfortable. Irritation is a good thing.
Tim Holt, writing on Uncomfortable Questions
miniCAST 2013 in El Paso Texas. Now taking Proposals for presentations!
miniCAST 2013 in El Paso coming this September! Are you going to make it?
Chad Jones and Chris Nelson from Lamar CISD presented at TCEA 2013 on how different training modes that their district presented match with the training delivery methods. In essence, they matched the way they did staff development ( method) with the type of called for training. For instance, if they were creating documents as the training method then documents would be best for basic training purposes. I like the idea of matching the method of training with the topic of training. In the above graphic, you can see that LCISD says that they create documents for training ( for instance short one pagers on how to use the email system) for basic information and for simple how to’s. The team at LCISD has put together their training into a one stop portal called INTERACT Cafe, which is where all documents, all videos and all training materials are located. I think I will revisit the matrix above to see if it can be modified for my district’s needs, but in the meantime, this is a good place to start with the idea of matching your staff development to the training method. Good job Lamar. Lead on.
Eduhero is a new professional development initiative by one of the states region service centers that allows teachers anywhere to take online professional development. These take the hassle out of having to take those mandatory training such as sexual harassment, blood-borne pathogen, and others.
Tim Holt is the author of 180 Questions, an international worst seller on Professional Learning Communities. Check it out in the iTunes Bookstore for iPads.