The Power of a Question

Dec 12, 2011
Tagged with:

Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Questions are the very things that keep us yearning, empowered, informed, and connected. They are far more powerful than most of us realize. They are capable of giving us understanding in something where there previously was none.

In my science class, I require my students to keep and maintain a “Science Log” in which they write, organize, and elaborate on the daily workings of our classroom time. Typically they remark about what a drag it is and how they’d rather not do it if had the chance; however, I have had several students come back from college mostly to inform me about their impromptu “Science Log” that they are now keeping for their humanities course or political science major. And so I keep assigning it.

One of the required sections of the daily entries of the log is to write questions. I explain to my students that these could be questions that pertain directly to the lesson, but most likely not—because those questions would be most likely posed in the lecture. These questions that they write down should be questions that pop up in their minds like fireworks ignited by the light of inquisition and curiosity. They might be loosely related to the unit, or they might not. Whatever the case, these questions show me that their minds are cranking and that they are engaged about… something.

While grading their logs, I can spend anywhere from ten to forty-five minutes per log—simply due to answering these questions. Sometimes the questions are strictly science based: “What is the length of an elephant’s tusk?” or “What is the cause of muscular dystrophy?” Sometimes the questions are more of an attempted dialogue directly with me: “What is your favorite color?” or “Were you ever mad about being in a wheelchair?” And sometimes the questions are more of an arm’s-reach grasp at attention: “My mom has lymphoma, is she going to die?” or “How do I let go of a friend that is bad for me?”Regardless of the category of question, each one has an important place in their log and on that piece of paper.

I had never quite realized until now how empowering it is to have given my students the obligation to question. With any hope this skill of questioning will carry with them throughout their lives—finding its way into business boardrooms and manifesting into the beginnings of intimate relationships.

Not only does questioning produce answers, but it also produces a direct strength of knowledge and position in this world.

What are you going to question today?

Author: Ryan McLean