Saturday, August 30, 2014

In search of better thinking, not right answers

I shared the following Tweet recently because the embedded paragraph below really encapsulates much of what I believe to be true about what students really need from today's schools. We cannot ignore that the world is a very different place than it was for previous generations. As a result, schools need to think about preparing students not just for today, but for what they will need in the future.

While the argument could be made for completely rethinking the structure and format of our learning systems, that is outside the scope of what most educators feel they control. What is in our control is what happens in our classrooms each day. We can do relatively simple things to cause deeper thinking and help students develop skills as questioners and problem solvers, skills that will be very useful to meet challenges of the future.

Steve Wyborney, who by the way was 2005 Oregon Teacher of the Year, shared this strategy in response to my Tweet. This simple idea doesn't require completely retooling how school works, it can be applied in the traditional classroom.

Here is an excerpt from the article Steve authored explaining this strategy.

Taking the answer out of the equation

In the quest to promote deep student thinking, sometimes the answer is the problem.
In the classroom, we can launch a beautiful, rich question only to see students reach the answer – and reach the end of their thinking. After all, why would they think beyond the answer? Isn’t the purpose of a question to lead to an answer? Isn’t the answer also the conclusion? Isn’t the answer the end of the journey of discovery?
No, it’s not.
The purpose of a question is not always to launch a journey toward a single answer. The purpose is often to give students an opportunity to think, to stretch, to learn strategies which they can apply to a wider range of scenarios. When students regard the answer as the end of the journey, they may miss those very growth opportunities. But how can we cause students to reach for deeper thinking when they are accustomed to ending the journey at the point of reaching an answer? A simple solution is to take the answer out of the equation. In other words, when you ask a question, give the students the answer to the question and change their task. Ask them to find as many connections as possible between the question and the answer. Click here to read the entire article on Frizzle.

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