In traditional instructional approaches, from the introduction of a new topic all the way to its examination, the learner is expected to answer all sorts of questions. In fact, answering correctly is the main evidence for ticking the “learning achieved” box. However, research and practice now show that learners’ answering is not the key; learners’ questioning is.
In this blog post, we explore what learners can gain from meaningful questioning-answering interactions with educators and mentors, with a particular focus on the soft skills they cultivate while seeking knowledge. We also explain how we move from theory to practice with the new features of the 100mentors educational technology platform.
What are learners’ questions seeking?
Student-centered approaches, such as inquiry-based learning, are all about putting learners in charge of their learning process. Therefore, being open to their questions is step number one for implementing innovative instruction.
💡 New Feature Tip: Create a Topic
In the new Topic Builder, educators can now encourage learners to ask any question within a better-defined space by adding information about the main concepts involved, subject tags, and education level.
When a learner asks a question, they’re probably looking for input that fills a knowledge gap, resolves a cognitive conflict, or offers a deeper understanding (Stokhof et al., 2017). And, sooner or later, they will find an answer to their question: with the help of educators, peers, textbooks, and search engines, the potential sources of knowledge are limitless.
However, this shouldn’t be the end of any meaningful inquiry. It’s only its beginning!
Answers as stepping-stones
It sounds unorthodox at first, but the more a learner knows about a topic, the more questions they have about it. Although any content they find can efficiently get them going, the answer characteristics play a crucial role in the learner’s inquiry progression.
💡 New feature tip: Save questions
Educators (and mentors) can Bookmark the questions they find interesting to answer and share their insights in a 100-second video format any time they want.
Multiple, diverse, and level-appropriate answers are an excellent start for developing new questions. It’s not only about the increasing number of questions the learners can produce. It’s about how the quality of the questions can improve.
💡 New feature tip: Review answers
Through the new Answer Reactions option, learners can let their educators and mentors know what impact the answer had on their learning: puzzling, satisfying, intriguing, inspiring, or mindblowing.
Learners actively participating in questioning-answering interactions are on the right track to go from basic information questions to wonderment questions on the topic under discussion. Can simply acquiring new content knowledge lead the learner to such a significant cognitive development?
Questions can do much more than bringing knowledge in
Not quite. As mentioned before, knowledge is widely available. The hard skills necessary in its acquisition are increasingly sidelined in both academic and professional contexts. Instead, there is a growing demand for soft skills that are considered more permanent and all-inclusive learning components compared to memorizing content knowledge in a field of interest.
When it comes to questioning, a particular cluster of inquiry-based soft skills takes the lead: critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity (Chu et al., 2016). These three skills can be cultivated through systematic questioning. And they are crucial for the efficient execution of all cognitive tasks.
💡 New feature tip: Evaluate questions
With the new Question Evaluation screen, educators and mentors can now evaluate learners’ questions regarding the reflected inquiry skills that can be lacking, emerging, developing, efficient, or exemplary.
In other words, the days when solid “technical knowledge” was all a person needed have long passed. In the new technological era, the focus is on detecting, appreciating, and operationalizing the widely available knowledge. Therefore, an innovative progressive inquiry process should also appreciate the development of learners’ inquiry skills as part of their learning.
Follow-up questions for effective progressive inquiry
As a process, progressive inquiry has been proven efficient for learning in various traditional educational contexts. Technology-mediated processes can further elevate the gains from questioning-answering interactions (Hakkarainen, 2003).
However, the use of any educational technology still relies on us who, as educators, can prompt our learners to ask questions whenever these come to mind and encourage them to carefully consider the answers they receive.
One question can give us only a snapshot of the learner’s inquiry skill level. We’re looking to measure their progress: an initial basic question can evolve into a line of inquiry full of wonderment, reflecting how answers and question evaluations intervene in the learning process.
💡 New feature tip: Prompt follow-up questions
With the Follow-up question feature, every learner, who receives an answer from their educators or assigned mentors, can add a follow-up question to deepen their inquiry and keep the discussion going in a meaningful way.
You can start today by signing in or registering on the 100mentors platform. What can you do as an educator? Here’s a short checklist for you to explore:
◻ Create a new Topic and invite your learners to participate
◻ Check out your learners’ questions, evaluate and answer them
◻ Encourage your learners to watch the answers and to post follow-up questions
Chu, S. K. W., Reynolds, R. B., Tavares, N. J., Notari, M., & Lee, C. W. Y. (2016). 21st century skills development through inquiry-based learning: From theory to practice. In 21st Century Skills Development Through Inquiry-Based Learning: From Theory to Practice.
Hakkarainen, K. (2003). Emergence of Progressive-Inquiry Culture in Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning. Learning Environments Research, 6, 199–220.
Stokhof, H. J. M., De Vries, B., Martens, R. L., & Bastiaens, T. J. (2017). How to guide effective student questioning: a review of teacher guidance in primary education. Review of Education, 5(2), 123–165.