Why do we ask questions? From an early age, we wield questions to interact with our environment. Most of us have played the ‘why’ game as a child to satisfy our curiosity about the world around us. As adults, too, we tend to rely on questions continually. And as educators especially, we encounter and leverage questions every day. Teachers ask hundreds of questions in the classroom, and so do learners. But why? What is it about questions that makes them so important in an instructional setting? What exactly is the purpose of questions?
Questions in traditional learning
Questions have always been central to the process of learning. Can you imagine a classroom without questions? Hardly! Whether it’s the student doing the asking or the teacher, questions form the basis of classroom interactions early-on. Of course, depending on which side of the classroom you are on, the purpose of questions naturally defers. If teachers perceive questions as a tool with which to assess and evaluate, students value questions as a means to learn, prepare, and improve.
Questions are arguably one of the most powerful tools in a teacher’s arsenal. Teachers have always relied on questions to evaluate their students. A learning experience cannot be complete without evaluation, in some shape or form. Only through evaluations can teachers measure students’ knowledge and understanding of the learning content. Evaluation is necessary to measure the learning outcomes and by extension the success of the learning experience. And in the traditional classroom setting, evaluation usually translates into questions.
By asking the right questions, teachers assess how well a student has understood the concepts and information taught in the class. Good questions help teachers identify knowledge gaps which need to be addressed, or students who are struggling with the material and need help. Take for example, an app like Socrative, a tool that doesn’t just help teachers with assessment, but also shares insights into student performance. Essentially, teachers leverage questions not just to measure the success or failure of their students, but of the learning experience itself, and by extension, to improve their teaching.
Questions build confidence.
Students need questions just as much as teachers do, if for different reasons. As students we use questions to measure and prepare ourselves. Mock-tests, flashcards, study sessions—at some point or other, we have all turned to questions to get us ready for all those important tests we had to take. Questions don’t just help a student understand where they need to improve. With every question you get right, they build your confidence, make you feel ready to take on the challenge, and assured of your own success.
Just look at an app like Anki—something that’s based entirely on students using questions to practice and prepare themselves. The popularity of Anki-like tools just goes to highlight how much students depend on questions.
Evolving role of questions
Evaluation and preparation were the typical functions of questions, especially in the classroom learning context. Today, however, the value of questions has evolved beyond its traditional purposes. We live in a world that is rife with information. In an era of smartphones, Google, and social media, information is available literally at our fingertips. The challenge no longer lies in finding the information, but in being able to absorb and process the flood of information that overwhelms us from all directions. With the overabundance of content and our ever-reducing attention spans, what we need is a new way of presenting content; one that grabs our attention, incites us to take in the information, and makes it easy for us to process it. And this is where we must, once again, look to questions.
Questions drive engagement.
Questions have the power to make learning interactive. Questions invite answers. They require students to get involved and participate. Questions can break the monotony of the classroom and encourage students to engage in the learning process. A well-designed question poses just the right kind of challenge for students to tackle. This is especially relevant today, when increasingly, learning is moving away from the traditional classroom environment and entering the digital realm. Without the physical presence of a teacher, with your learning interactions primarily involving a screen, it is all the more important that the content itself be engaging enough to sustain your attention. A popular solutions teachers and instructional designers rely on to handle this challenge, is to devise elaborate gamified learning experiences. And what is at the core of gamified learning, if not questions? Game-based learning interactions are, in the simplest terms, questions woven through the logic and flow of a game scenario. Consider Kahoot for example, something that lets teachers create a bunch of learning games.
And this is just one way in which questions liven up learning experiences. Quizzes, games, story-based assessments, and more—teachers and instructional designers exploit the potential of questions in so many different ways to engage their learners.
Questions arouse curiosity.
How many of us prefer Quora as our go-to source of information these days, over most others? Quora understands and leverages the power of question—their unique ability to make people curious. It’s not just that we ask questions when we are curious about something; in fact, the rightly worded question has the power to arouse our curiosity too. Take this, for example, one of the most popular Quora questions: “What’s the most epic photo ever taken?” Or this one: “What are the most surreal places one can ever visit?” Or finally this gem: “Given our current technology and with the proper training, would it be possible for someone to become Batman?” Don’t you feel like you just have to find out where they lead you?
When something is phrased as a question, it draws a learner in, gives them a fascinating glimpse of what’s to come, and makes them want to know more. What’s more, when the question resonates with the learner, when they’re curious enough to want to know the answer, they are better prepared to understand that answer. This means that, if it’s a question that leads your learners to the content, they will probably be able to process and absorb it better.
Questions can essentially act as a gateway. If a question fails to arouse your curiosity, you probably won’t read the answer. If, on the other hand, a question does manage to make you curious, you’ll follow its trail, and go the content. And better still, you may be able to understand it more easily.
In today’s era of content overload, we need questions more than ever before. Everywhere around you, you find answers that you didn’t need at all. But if only you ask the right questions, you can fight the content overload and get to exactly what you want. As teachers, asking the right questions ensures that your learners will be more engaged in the learning process. As learners, asking the right questions will help you find precisely the content you need in an overwhelming sea of information, and absorb it much more effectively.
And this is exactly where Quillionz has a role to play. Quillionz helps you leverage this unique power of questions. Armed with intelligent algorithms that understand your content, Quillionz lets you create a host of questions in a matter of seconds. With the power to create a huge number of questions in the blink of an eye, you have the freedom to use them in creative ways to enhance your learning experiences.
Click here to learn more about how Quillionz helps you explore the true potential of questions.