Asking questions improves the quality of our thinking.

After a long chalk and talk session your teacher will pause and ask "Any question so far?" the likely feedback he would get is a deafening silence. The teacher can conclude; "my explanation was so brilliant, my class understood everything" or  "Oh my God I have just done a good job of confusing these little minds" or even worse, "they were not paying attention all this time because if they did they should have something to say". On the other hand students will be silently saying "what was s/he on about?" or "what time does this class finish" or even worse, "how do I request to change out of this class".

We all take in information through 5 channels which we call senses, visual (seeing), auditory (listening), kinesthetic (doing, touching), olfactory (smell) and gustatory (tasting). In a standard learning environment we do not usually use all unless it's in a safe practical class environment like cooking and some science classes. The three main ways we take in information in class is through the visual, auditory and kinesthetic channels. To add to the challenge each of us has a preferred way out of these 3. That leaves a 1 in five to learn and understand what is being taught with relative ease.  Here is another challenge effective communication is not about hearing the noises, seeing the images/objects or physically interacting with objects that are in the learning environment. It is about the teacher and student being in sync or rather if you like, operating at the same frequency. What do I mean? As usual I am going to use what you already know to explain this complicated but usually perceived as simple process.

Almost everyone around us has a mobile phone. We all know that messages (voice and text are being sent back and forth from one device to the next. If the other party has the right phone number of the device they want to communicate with, it is really rare for their messages to end up going to the wrong device. The wring delivery of messages is more often than not linked to an error in typing the wrong address or phone number.  So for device A to deliver a message to device B, device A must have the correct digital address of device B. The address put the devices in sync assuring no messages are lost. The same can happen in class, we cannot assume that because you are in the same room as the teacher, you are guaranteed to get and understand everything the teacher is communicating. Because of a lot other things going on in and  around and  us, we sometime miss or get the wrong message.

As humans we have an opportunity t trace and retrieve the messages from the horse's mouth. That is done through asking questions. This must be done at the earliest convenience, usually as soon as sets in or you can wait until you are given an opportunity to ask (I usually do not recommend this). There are a few reasons why students struggle to ask questions.

  1. Fear --- To be discussed in another post.
  2. Not knowing what they did not understand--- Unconscious incompetence
  3. They know what they do not understand, they are not afraid and they know how to ask but they are choosing not to ask--- conscious incompetence
  4. They know what they do not understand, they are not afraid and  but they do not know how to ask.

So how do we ask questions?

Firstly, figure out what you really understood and focus on coming up with a good question to get help clarifying what you want to understand. Below are a list of phrases you can use to;

a) clarify what you know.

The most important things I remember from this lesson are.....

The lesson is or was about…

Things I would like to remember to do are…


b) put together a question or questions that can get you the right help.




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