No questions now, please; it’s time for learning
January 29, 2020 11:10 AM   Subscribe

Students who ask more questions and are more curious do better in school Teachers who concentrate on developing focus and good behavior because of the links to good academic performance, now need to take on board that developing curiosity could be even more important. One nursery in England has replaced their toys with cardboard boxes to invite imaginative play.
posted by stillmoving (25 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is this where we talk about Christina Katerina & the Box? Because I loved that book.
posted by asperity at 12:29 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I had a math teacher in 11th grade who got mad at me for asking questions because it "interrupted his lesson plan." I stopped liking math after that.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:41 PM on January 29 [8 favorites]


I got a dishonorable discharge from the 3rd grade in my religious school for asking questions.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:46 PM on January 29 [26 favorites]


I regret nothing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:46 PM on January 29 [33 favorites]


Replacing ALL THE TOYS with cardboard boxes and other junk is like a perfect encapsulation of what I find so annoying about child education trends. You can encourage imagination without literally taking away all the toys, people!
posted by schwinggg! at 12:58 PM on January 29 [27 favorites]


I could always tell how the school year was going to go for my son at Meet the Teacher Night. The teachers who flat out said that they enjoyed inquisitive kids were the teachers who ended up loving my son as a student; the ones who typically taught in a more "traditional" way were the ones we'd end up in conference after conference with because of "interruptions" and "disruptions" from my son. In middle school, he politely (yes, politely; she even agreed with that) challenged his teacher on something I can't recall now. She called us in for a conference and I was able to look up the fact in question and I showed her that he was, in fact, correct. She looked at me and said, "But he can't be allowed to question my authority in the classroom." Reader, we had WORDS and I had him moved from her class.

People who don't like inquisitive kids, in my opinion, shouldn't be teachers. They just shouldn't.
posted by cooker girl at 1:11 PM on January 29 [30 favorites]


That's not what their linked study says, unless I am reading it poorly: the study says that children of parents who described their children as curious did better at reading and maths. This would seem to me to be a good proxy for children of parents who valued education, parents like cooker girl.
posted by alasdair at 2:08 PM on January 29 [6 favorites]


This was a lighter read for me a while ago (along with a bunch of other more research-oriented stuff by Ciardiello). I thought it was on the right track. He and a few other researchers at the the time were talking about showing students "discrepant materials" and asking students to puzzle and think about what they were looking at. These would be things where parts of the visual or written narrative were missing, where context was removed, where pieces of the image didn't jive with each other, etc. I like to show my undergrads the classic UPS Prom Photo, but one can show students anything-- a political cartoon out-of-context, a math problem missing some key elements, a weird rock, whatever. The idea is to "make the familiar strange," to encourage questions, and to pique curiosity and invite divergent thinking about problem-solving. I think good teachers have done this forever, parents and guardians who value formal and informal education encourage this as well, and standardized, production-line educational models do not like this as it is hard to assess, quantify, put in a report for deciding funding, and use as a sound-byte for re-election.
posted by oflinkey at 3:10 PM on January 29


"the number one enemy of progress is questions"
(Jello Biafra - speaking satirically)
posted by philip-random at 3:55 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Replacing ALL THE TOYS with cardboard boxes and other junk is like a perfect encapsulation of what I find so annoying about child education trends. You can encourage imagination without literally taking away all the toys, people!

anyway, they tried it Germany and all the kids turned into robots
posted by philip-random at 3:58 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]


Young kids don't have much of a schema developed for "toy" and "not toy". Ask any parent of a toddler. They didn't really remove all toys from that classroom, they just replaced a bunch of toys with other, less colorful toys. Of course the kids rolled with it. It's all toys to them.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:10 PM on January 29 [5 favorites]


I doubt the cardboard will stay less colourful for long, it'll probably get painted, drawn on, or otherwise decorated pretty quickly.

Cardboard is a pretty good construction material for kids. We had 6 chairs delivered to our house recently which meant 6 big boxes and our kids have had a good time making things with them.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:15 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]


Corrugated cardboard is the bomb. My dad taught me how to use and respect box cutters and I had my own to use without supervision in about grade 2 (7 yo).

Mind, my teachers at school freaked the fork out.
posted by porpoise at 6:34 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]


I teach adults in a college setting, from literacy level to first year university and everything in between. The one thing my most successful students have in common, regardless of prior academic experience or preparedness, is intellectual curiosity.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:44 PM on January 29 [5 favorites]


Plenty of us had a ton of intellectual curiosity but were far too anxious and shy to ask lots of questions, though.
posted by world wide woman at 7:54 PM on January 29 [6 favorites]


That does bring up a relevant point, if like grit, there's correlation with class behaviours or parental approach that would encourage that classroom attitude in the first place, before you factor it being fostered by the teaching environment or not.
posted by cendawanita at 7:58 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Plenty of us had a ton of intellectual curiosity but were far too anxious and shy to ask lots of questions, though.

Absolutely. I don't find a correlation between students who ask more questions and success--it's the intellectual curiosity itself, which is expressed in many different ways depending on the student. Because I know many students are too shy or anxious to speak up in class, I give them multiple opportunities and a variety of different ways to express themselves--orally, in writing, in small group assignments, in one-on-one settings.

And many of my students have had very negative experiences with education (that's why they're in upgrading, to finish/improve on their high school courses)--for some of them, their intellectual curiosity was never fostered, or it was beaten out of them (for some of them, literally beaten out of them). I try to provide lots of opportunities for development of it in a safe environment.

Lots of them, at first, feel safest if they can just memorize things and then reproduce them on a test. That feels safe. They understand what's expected and it feels safe to follow understood rules. But it's disorienting when an instructor tells them to experiment, to try things out, to explore. There's a lot of (understandable!) resistance at first--I've had students get angry at me! But many of them, once they've had a chance to practice this kind of learning, really enjoy it and embrace it in a way that they were never allowed to before.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:17 PM on January 29 [15 favorites]


Also, focus and good behavior in school are like, nothing. I thought I was doing what I was supposed to be doing by not letting the other kids talk to me when we weren't allowed to be talking. All that did was make them stop talking to me permanently which followed me into high school and beyond, and we all got punished as a group anyway so I would have been better off breaking the rules. I wish kids were just allowed to be kids and we were free enough as adults that it wouldn't matter.
posted by bleep at 9:59 PM on January 29 [7 favorites]


She looked at me and said, "But he can't be allowed to question my authority in the classroom."

I’ve blocked details from memory now, but I got called out pretty aggressively by my 11th grade physics teacher (who, in hindsight, was in way over his head and not comfortable teaching physics) for earnestly asking some clarification questions on incorrect info he’d taught to the class. I didn’t even know he had made incorrect claims when asking the questions; I was just trying to reconcile seemingly incompatible information from his own lessons.

You’d hope a teacher would be able to take a deep breath and be thankful that their teaching was sinking in enough that a student was able to pick out problematic statements. Not to mention that I prevented the whole class from walking away from the lessons with incorrect beliefs. But no, all he could do was lash out publicly.

The treatment was bad enough for me to decide to change high schools in my final year, to find a set of teachers who would better support me in my quest for knowledge.
posted by mantecol at 11:41 PM on January 29 [6 favorites]


I had a math teacher in 11th grade who got mad at me for asking questions because it "interrupted his lesson plan." I stopped liking math after that.

Well yeah, the teacher is under pressure to complete objectives. The answer is hire and train more teachers teaching assistants to answer questions and more resources/smaller classroom sizes, but they're the first things to be cut from budgets.
posted by Chaffinch at 1:43 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


hurdygurdygirl You sound like a great teacher!
posted by mkuhnell at 6:52 AM on January 30


I tell my students, up front on Day One, that I’ve been doing this a long time. That the first university Chemistry class I ever taught was Spring 1988. And I’ve successfully taught literally thousands of students at this point. So I really know what I’m doing here. But, I emphasize, I’m human. And as such, I may make the occasional mistake in something I say or write on the board, just like any other instructor. It doesn’t happen often! But if it does, and they may even notice it, and if they help me correct it, I’d be grateful.

It really eliminates a lot of stress when you don’t view your role as having to be the perfect, unquestioned authority figure in the class. And it models the right mindset for students, too.

So, a few of the most useful responses that I’ve learned as a college professor:

1. When you’ve forgotten something you definitely used to know:

“You know, I don’t recall right now, but I’ll check up on that and get back to you on Wednesday, okay?”


2. When you don’t know because it’s outside of your field, or within your field but beyond your level of study:

“You know, that’s a great question! What I know about that only goes so far, because I’m not as deeply engaged in that field as some others. But I’ll do a little research and get back to you on Wednesday, okay?”


3. When a student has SO many questions that it’s beginning to derail the session from the learning objectives:

“I think these are fantastic questions, and I’d really like to discuss them further with you. Could we talk more outside of class?”


4. When a student calls you on a fact, and you get that strange feeling where you start to question whether maybe they might be right and you’re wrong:

“You know, I’m like 97% certain on this. But your question is making me pause and consider if maybe I’m mis-remembering. After class, I’ll confirm that information and clarify when we come back on Wednesday, okay?”
posted by darkstar at 7:10 AM on January 30 [17 favorites]


Carboard boxes: Not just for cats!

(Actually, I've used them for team-building exercises with grad students. Cardboard is the best.)
posted by pangolin party at 7:28 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


That's not what their linked study says, unless I am reading it poorly

Oh, yes, I know. I wasn't trying to make that correlation, sorry!
posted by cooker girl at 9:29 AM on January 30


Stumbled across this product (Mr. Mgroovys) today, reusable fasteners for cardboard.

Haven't tried them, pretty spendy in amazon.ca. But for choroplast, this stuff ought to be amazing.
posted by porpoise at 7:05 PM on January 31


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