P.Q. & C.Q. – “Live the questions NOW.”

The Journey

Looking back to the beginning of this course, we were asked a series of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” type of questions, questions that made me stop and really think about my answers. Little did I know that that type of questioning was laying the ground work for the entire course and what was to follow would prove to be a very engaging and enlightening experience. A quote by David McCullough from Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas immediately resonated with me:

“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air, and behold the view. Climb is to you can see the world, not so the world can see you”  (Berger, 2012, p. 191).

So often we are more concerned with the “prize” at the end that we don’t enjoy the journey.

Questioning your own life can be scary but it can also be exciting. Berger (2012) points out that while you’re questioning your own life, don’t only look for what’s missing also look for what’s there via “appreciative inquiry”. Berger (2012) explains that “the main premise of appreciative inquiry is that positive questions, focusing on strengths and assets, tend to yield more effective result than negative questions focusing on problems or deficits” (p. 190). Bottom line, focusing on what is missing and what we don’t have elicits negative feelings that can block progress. Happiness researcher Tal Ben-Shahar suggests to “cultivate the habit of gratitude” as “gratitude is the shortcut to happiness” (pp. 190-191).

Technology, Passions, & Curiosities

In the ever changing world of technology where one of the few constants is change, being knowledgeable and knowing your stuff aren’t the only skills that are going to land you a job or make you efficient in your field. As Thomas Friedland (2013) so appropriately states, “We are a world that taken us from connected to hyperconnected”, just look around next time you’re waiting in a doctor’s office or walk into a coffee shop – people are glued to their electronic devices, technology is all around us.

Just being good with technology isn’t enough but add passion and curiosity to the mix and you create a recipe for success. pqandcqinfographicWhat is important to you? What are you passionate about? What are you curious about?  I asked myself those fundamental questions not only how they relate to my teaching career but also how they relate to my life in general. I answered those questions and visualized them in an infographic that depicts my P.Q. (passion quotient) and my C.Q. (curiosity quotient) as Friedland wrote about.

My passions in life and my career include:

  • Health & Well Being
  • Creativity
  • Learning
  • Technology

My curiosities include:

  • How can I bring project-based learning to the classroom and make learning more meaningful?
  • How can continuing to expand my PLN online and offline help with change in the classroom?
  • How do I encourage students to ask the “tough questions”?
  • How can technology be used to enhance and bring excitement to learning?

Ask the questions and never stop questioning.

I’m enjoying the educational and personal journey I’m on, embracing the challenges and “beholding the view”, living my passions, exploring my curiosities, embracing technology, and in the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, “Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.”

References:

Ben-Sharer, T. (2012, April). Five Ways to Become Happier Today. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/fLhpyzVTc8A
Berger, W. (2014). A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breathrough Ideas. New York City, NY: Bloomsbury USA.
Friedman, T. L. (2013, January 29). It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q.. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/opinion/friedman-its-pq-and-cq-as-much-as-iq.html?_r=0
McCullough, D. (2012, June). You Are Not Special Commencement Speech from Wellesley High School. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/_lfxYhtf8o4
Rainer Maria Rilke > Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/7906.Rainer_Maria_Rilke
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The Socratic Method – Making a Comeback?

Socrates Louvre - Sting [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Wikipedia describes the Socratic method as “form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presumptions.” (“Socratic Method,” 2016, “Definition,” para. 1).

In Chapter 2 of “A More Beautiful Question“, William Deresiewicz and Sebastian Thrun make mention of Socratic teaching. In relation to the online world, Thrun hopes that this method of teaching makes a comeback. The topic of Socratic teaching sparked my interest not only because it poses the question of being able to “teach ourselves to question” but also because it references the online environment which makes up 100% of both my personal learning education and professional teaching career. Food for thought: Is it easier for online learners to question simply because of the online environment? Are college institutions becoming more technocratic when it comes to education? Can we teach ourselves to be a better questioner? Is the Socratic method of teaching making a comeback?

Deresiewicz believes that the college education students are receiving now is more technocratic in nature. He states that, “They’re trained to develop expertise in a particular area–trained to solve problems that are particular to that area. It’s about jumping through hoops, and mastering what’s on the test” (Berger, 2014, p. 67). Instead, students don’t have the opportunity to stop and actually think about what and why they’re doing it let alone ask the “big questions about values and meaning and purpose” (p. 67).

According to Deresiewicz, professors that can inspire students to ask the big questions are rare. How did his favorite professor and mentor “spark inquiry”? Deresiewicz noted that Man with many questions - https://pixabay.com/photo-479670/his professor had “an ability to reframe things–to ask questions that got at something fundamental” (Berger, 2014, p. 68). Do teachers always have to the answers to every single question? How do learners perceive a teacher that doesn’t have the answer? Essentially, the Socratic method doesn’t always find the answers to every question, but rather may provoke additional questions for consideration, “…students find it really liberating t have a teacher say, ‘I don’t know the answer–so let’s figure this out together.'” states Deresiewicz (p. 68).

Sebastian Thrun, professor and founder and CEO of Udacity, is trying to bring the Socratic method of teaching as described by Deresiewicz, to online teaching. A Udacity course isn’t about broadcasting lectures while a learner absorbs information, it’s about interjecting “thoughtful questioning at critical junctures” (Berger, 2014, p. 68) so that it provokes the learner to really think about what they’re learning and to ask the big questions that can spark inquiry. Is questioning easier in an online environment? Thrun and one of his partners Irene Au, believe this to be the case and they believe that anonymity plays a role. Although Deresiewicz and Thrun don’t see eye-to-eye on the notion that questioning is easier online, they do both agree that questioning is critically important and necessary and support the Socratic method.

Since 100% of my everyday teaching takes place in an online environment, I am able to observe student interaction and questioning first hand within a higher education setting. A portion of the final grade is based upon discussion forum interaction and asking/answering questions related to the week’s topic. There is also a “help” forum that I highly encourage students to use for asking questions as well as for collaborating and assisting others. I participate within the weekly discussions and respond to students by asking questions about their questions to get them to think outside of the box and “spark inquiry”. Often I find that when I question, it has an avalanche effect and students follow my lead. When this occurs, amazing discussions take place! Whether it’s obvious to the students or not, they are essentially teaching themselves to be better questioner.

I also find that students are more open to asking questions in an online environment, giving credence to the statement made by Thrun and Au that anonymity plays a role. Comparing the discussion forums in my online classrooms to my traditional classrooms from previous years, the amount of complex, out-of-the-box type of questions, are greater in my online classrooms.

Is the Socratic method of teaching making a comeback and replacing more of the technocratic method of teaching in college institutions? If teachers are sparking inquiry within their students and students are critically thinking about what they are doing and the reason(s) why, and are encouraged to ask the “big questions”, then yes, the Socratic method of teaching is making a comeback. As a teacher will you always have the answer to every question? No, but that’s okay.

References:

Altmann, G. (2014, October). [People] [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/photo-479670/

Berger, W. (2014). A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breathrough Ideas. New York City, NY: Bloomsbury USA.

Gaba, E. (2005, July). [Portrait of Socrates. Marble, Roman artwork (1st century), perhaps a copy of a lost bronze statue made by Lysippos.] [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASocrates_Louvre.jpg

Socratic Method. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved September, 8, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socratic_method#cite_note-0