There is nothing that promotes learning better than great questions and memorable conversations.
If we can just get those two things right on a consistent basis, life is good.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot stacked against us.
Outside school, amidst the polarization of political views and clutter of social media, our students find themselves in competition over who can state their opinions the loudest. The whole idea of stopping to slow down and ask questions doesn’t enter the consciousness.
They have few places to go to see what good conversations look like. We compound this problem inadvertently by racing through our curriculum and never setting aside enough time to work in meaningful conversations.
The greatest benefit to reflective inquiry and conversations is long term—they give our students the feeling that their voices matter. When student voice is validated in this way over time, a student sees learning as a natural and enjoyable part of life, which in turn feeds into a desire to make the world better. There’s a ton at stake here.
That’s why at Teach Different we developed a profound, yet easy-to-follow technique that over time empowers teachers to do two things really well:
1. Formulate provocative essential questions
2. Set up great conversations
The process comes in three steps and draws its inspiration from the wisdom of the greatest questioner and conversation artist of them all, Socrates. He knew way before all of us that asking profound questions and engaging people in dialogue was the best way to establish and nurture student voice.
Here’s a quick 2-minute cartoon summarizing the process, beginning with a provocative quote from Chinese philosopher Confucius– “If you want to embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
In steps one and two teachers and students think deeply about a provocative quotation and consider claims and counterclaims surrounding it. The essential question, designed in step three, then becomes the hitching post for a memorable conversation connected to the curriculum. The key to the essential question is accessibility– it coaxes students to draw out their own lived experiences, which in turn invests them emotionally in the ensuant conversation. In this way, the essential question promotes student voice by tending to the socio-emotional needs of all learners.
Asking questions and having good conversations are difficult, but not impossible. Like anything else, success is dependent on careful planning and an adherence to a consistent routine over time. The 3-Step Process does just that.