Why Students Must Learn to Start Asking Meaningful Questions
Editor’s note: This is an updated version of a previous post on asking meaningful questions and why it matters.
Asking meaningful questions is a cornerstone of learning and living because it’s a practice we use every day. Everything from grocery shopping to choosing a new career path and beyond requires it. In fact, the majority of our success in life depends on asking the right questions and making the best decisions. In education, the benefits of asking meaningful questions is equally immeasurable.
What are the benefits of our students learning how to do this? First of all, it helps them clearly define problems and expectations. Secondly, it makes their research more productive. Third, it fosters better team communication and lets them view challenges proactively. Finally, it encourages deeper reflection and better learning processes.
Overall, there’s just no downside to it. So how do we actually do it?
Asking Meaningful Questions is Tough—Sometimes
Sure, it takes practice but what’s interesting is why it’s necessary. The truth is, we don’t always understand each other. Keep in mind this is simply a case of human nature. It’s not that we don’t communicate well enough with people, it’s just that everyone listens and hears differently.
This can be a challenge when you talk to a large group like teachers do. Since you won’t always speak in the order, speed, or detail every learner wants, some of them will connect with your words and some won’t. It doesn’t constitute failure or disinterest on anyone’s part, however.
Teachers strive to ensure every student understands what’s expected. Differentiated learning can also mean differentiated listening. However, we’re also talking about learning ownership. It’s not reasonable to expect a teacher to give students the right questions, either. They must be able to form them on their own.
What can we do? We can encourage questioning skills in our students. We can teach them how to become stimulated to begin asking meaningful questions. This goes hand-in-hand with teaching good listening skills, because good questioners inherently become good listeners. A good listener receives information, processes it, gives feedback for clarity, and decides how they will act on it. This is the place where questions begin to arise.
So begin by encouraging kids to go forth and question. Teach them to love the aspect of discovery and to stay curious. A good place to start is by reminding students what they already know. This will surprise some of them, and maybe even delight a few.
Inquiring Students Want to Know
It’s true that this will be harder for some students than others because some will be bolder and less afraid. Others may be concerned about looking “dumb” or like “losers.” Some won’t be sure how to word their questions at all, but these are all things that we can help our students with. However, the first thing students want to know is why asking meaningful questions is important.
Students want to know why when it comes to their learning. They ask questions about their learning all the time, and you’ve likely heard all these at some point:
- Why do I need to learn this?
- How will it help me in the future?
- What can I use this knowledge for in real life?
- How vital is it if I can Google it in 5 seconds or less?
The good news is this indicates students are already primed for asking meaningful questions. From here we can guide them towards using that same scrutiny with their projects and research. They can apply it to any lesson in school or in life—it’s just a matter of reminding them they already have the know-how.
The Impact of Asking Meaningful Questions
What are the benefits of students being able to ask authentic questions? That’s another good question: where do you start? The short answer is all benefit and no consequence. Ever heard the saying “there are no stupid questions?” It’s really true.
The impact of asking meaningful questions is meaningful in both the short- and long-term. It’s like building a monument to success brick by brick. Asking meaningful questions can:
- foster critical thinking skills
- boost self-confidence
- enhance creativity
- strengthen relationships/partnerships
- establish trust
- exercise your memory
- develop oral communication skills
- encourage good listening
- help you become invested in the problem
- encourage others to ask questions
- spark lively and productive discussions
- open your mind to other opinions/beliefs
- protect you from making mistakes
- encourage a growth mindset
- make work more productive
- make solutions more effective
- lead you to new discoveries
- help you make better choices/decisions
The art of asking meaningful questions isn’t lost, and it never was. If we let our students know that, we’ve given them permission to be curious and creative. They get to think and question in a way that helps them become better thinkers. They also get to strive for deeper knowledge and more meaningful answers. Best of all, they get to grow in mind, body, and spirit.
And you, dear teacher, get to help them make it happen.
- The Best Self-Assessment Questions for Encouraging a Growth Mindset
- How to Begin Asking Authentic Learning Questions Right Now
- A List of 15 Ultimate Reflective Questions for Debriefing Learning