Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Are You Faking It? The Importance of Asking Questions

Summer  =  more questions

When are we going _____? What are we doing today? 
What does ________ mean? Where do I find _________? 
Why can't I _____?  How do I ______?
And these may not even cover the questions you need to answer for your career, profession or other areas of your life!

We've all been asked questions we simply do not know the answers to or maybe we do not want to answer. How do you respond? What do you do?

At Rockhurst University, we are encouraged to integrate the Jesuit pedagogy of answering a question with a question and reflecting.  After all, God gave us brains to use and as educators we strive to support others to think for themselves.  "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you," (Matthew 7:7.) We want others to unravel the twisted, tangled information out there as they open the door of opportunities and experiences, then gain the knowledge needed. Too often we seek the answer as a requirement to complete the question. Instead, what about asking more questions and finding what exactly makes those answers true, or maybe untrue? My favorite quote from our Rockhurst University Department of Education Conceptual Framework is, "...learners are not empty vessels to be filled...but makers of meaning." 

One of the biggest challenges when faced with a question (that you don't know the answer to) is looking ignorant. No one wants to appear incompetent. Professionally, I think it's important to simply respond with, "what do you think about that?" or  "perhaps, we need more information regarding that topic, idea, opinion or fact... " or how about "honestly, I do not know the exact answer to that question, but I am happy to help you find the answer and/or give the resources to find what you need."  All too often we are quick to provide an answer or fake an answer to appear like we know what we are talking about. 

We recognize through research and observation that we do not learn, understand, or comprehend by merely listening or being told answers. We grow by finding, explaining and defending our answers. Memorization is not active learning. Bloom's Taxonomy (2001) quickly shows us how important creating and synthesizing are to conceptual understanding. Conceptual understanding was originally rooted in the mathematics education, but has been integrated in all subject areas by effective teachers. It is defined as being able to: provide evidence for what you have learned; to apply the facts and information, to reason in settings with careful application.  I think this is pretty powerful stuff. Why? Because,our society has a problem of just spitting out responses without even knowing what they are really saying.

Where do we find the answers? (Million Dollar Question)
  • Do the Dewey:  Let's start here. When possible have the person asking the question find his or her own answers. You don't have to (and shouldn't) be the know-it-all. Take the pragmatic approach and let others explore and discover the knowledge they seek. John Dewey coined the phrase, "learn by doing." It's as simple as that.  This doesn't mean you can't be a guide and offer help finding resources to get them started, but why are you answering other people's questions instead of asking some yourself? 
  • No Hurry: Que up some Zac Brown Band tunes and slow it down. Learning takes some time. Finding what you are looking for takes some time. We all work and learn at different paces.  Whether it's you or someone else, plan and prepare for time needed to look, read and reflect on what material is being searched and comprehended.
  • Wikipedia Is Not Your Best Friend: In the age of GTS, wikis are the first links that pop up when searching for information. Always reliable? No. Most schools ban the use of wikipedias.  However, on most wiki sites, you will find some links to at the bottom under "References" which actually can lead you to valid primary sources. From there you can search for the real deal, but always follow up on what you are reading and the sources of your information for accuracy. Check out this infographic on how to get more out of Google searching
  • Stop Faking It! One of my treasured book series, related to scientific principles, is Stop Faking It! by Bill Robertson. He finds the humor when explaining everything from inertia to electricity using understandable language in a low stress way.  Find resources that provide the accurate explanations you need. eThemes, is a great internet database. It's basically a one-stop portal which gives you access to thousands of reliable websites. Initially created for educators, it has been a valuable resource for all. More importantly, it is monitored and constantly updated by the University of Missouri-Columbia. Go Tigers!

There will always be questions, we know that. It's what makes life so interesting! Knowing how to answer, when to answer and where to get the answers is something you will need figure out. 

Are you are Jaywalker? Hilarious, but this is what you look like when you fake an answer!




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