As I was checking my RSS feed from Google Reader, I can across an interesting blog header: Answering Questions with Questions.** This idea has been popping up more and more frequently in my teacher education classes. Last semester, one of the resounding themes in my science-methods class was that “good” instruction is inquiry-based. Spark curiosity, but don’t then stifle it with “right” answers. My classmates and I wondered “where could there be an appropriate place to address misconceptions?”.
Now in my current mathematics-methods class, this question knocks on the cranium door. Where is the line drawn between confusion and good education? How much can educators leave to the students and their future experiences to demystify the misconceptions. It’s not easy to say. I remember hearing about the law “don’t drink and drive” and then fretting whenever my folks would pick up a coke at a drive-thru restaurant. I would scan the area for police cars, certain that we would be pulled over for “drinking [pop or water] and driving”. But for these more “academic” realms, how much can we trust that students are “getting it”.
But then I wonder, how much are students understanding, even if they scored 100% on multiple choice exams? I know that I have a history of perfect scores and imperfect understanding. Memorization mayhem!
Although the blog that I read focuses on a slightly varied take on the inquiry-based-education-debate, wondering if we ought to continue to teach our students through a perspective of “the teacher has the right answers”, it still applies. It can be comforting to know that someone has an answer key out there, that all of my world isn’t hinged on uncertainty–but it is, isn’t it? How many science “facts” that I know aren’t but actual “theories” still “not proven to be true”?
I also think of the role of the teacher as an authority figure in the classroom–and I wonder if it changed the teacher’s grasp on the class’ respect if the authoritative figure “doesn’t know” the answer.
Then again, I don’t think that I could conduct my future classrooms in the either/or, right/wrong philosophy. It can take years to come out of that mindset, if the learner can overcome it at all. Sure, sometimes things may be too complicated for students to developmentally understand, but it seems to be a common theme that we underestimate the human’s power to grasp ideas. Why essentially lie to students in fear that they would not be able to understand the truth?
**Hey, look, I’ve now figured out the link system! Hurray! I’m tempted to go back and edit my previous posts, but I think I will leave as such to serve as a reminder of things learned, and for my future self , things remembered.