If there is one thing I’ve learned over the last month and a half, it is that questions can be a beautiful tool on the quest to find solutions to life’s problems. Honestly, it isn’t until we start asking questions about a problem that we truly start to understand that problem.
Questions like ‘Why?’, ‘What If?’, and ‘How?’, asked simply and with an open mind, can help us realize the complexities of our problem. Without understanding the complexities of a problem, we cannot hope to find a solution that will fit (Berger, 2016).
To add some context, I’m thinking back to when my cohort and I hosted our MAET Maker Faire for our graduate program. Our initial problem was ‘How do we plan and execute a maker faire?’ It wasn’t until we wrote down over 100 questions, based on that initial question/problem, that we realized exactly what went into hosting something like that. Once we had our big question broken down into many smaller and related questions, we were able to start addressing things one by one and finding the solutions we needed.
Complex Problems That I Face
Below are some of the complex problems that I face as a foreign language teacher. Next to the problems, I’ve started asking questions about the different aspects of each one in the hope that they might start to lead me down the path(s) to a solution. Or perhaps solutions.
|How can I inspire my students to be passionate and open-minded about other cultures across the globe?||Why are people close-minded? How can I inspire passion? Why do cultures exist? What is culture? How can I define culture? How can I define passion? What if everyone in the world was open-minded? What if everyone in the world was accepting?|
|How can I encourage the beauty of diversity?||Why do we fear differences? What is it to be different? What is diversity? How can diversity be beautiful? What if diversity was taught from a young age? What if parents celebrated diversity? Why don’t parents celebrate diversity? Why DO parents celebrate diversity? Why don’t/do schools celebrate diversity? What if everyone respected differences?|
|How can I make speaking French be fun, instead of anxiety-inducing?||What causes anxiety? Why is French hard for my students? Why are they afraid to speak? What about speaking is scary? What if I made speaking fun? How do I make speaking fun? How do I create a safe classroom space?
Why are my students happy to speak English in front of their peers but not French? What if I made it into a game?
Bringing It Back to My Community
Asking questions about a problem (to find a solution) is something that I strongly believe in now. It can sometimes be a long process, as evidenced by our 100-question maker faire planning document, but every time I’ve used it so far it leads to more and better solutions.
Next time that I assign my students a large project, I plan to have them ask all the questions they can think of first before doing anything else. It will help guide their thinking and make finding a solution easier in the long run.
Someday, I plan to bring the process to my coworkers as well, but that is another problem. Before I can start on that, I better start asking more questions.
Berger, W. (2016). A more beautiful question: The power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.
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