In my academic years, I had a professor who tested our knowledge in a peculiar way – the last question on the exam was always “create a question on a topic not already covered in the exam, and answer it.” We were graded not only on whether or not the answer was correct, but also on whether or not we have asked the right question to arrive at the correct answer.
Ingenious! I thought. As a teacher, that’s one less question that he had come up with, and one more way to get students to study harder… reduce effort and still enhance effectiveness. But I do not think that was all.
Maybe he was trying to get us to be more active in forming questions.
When someone else asks the question, you either know the answer or you do not. But when you ask the question, you have to first know why you want to ask that question and what you expect to find out by asking, before you can know whether or not you know the answer.
Maybe he was trying to get us to take the time to structure questions.
When someone else asks the question, you give the answer and be done with it. But when you ask the question, you have to think of who to ask and how to pose the question to get to the answer, before you can actually shoot the question.
Maybe he was trying to get us to experiment designing questions.
When someone else asks the question, you follow the path of inquiry that is already laid down. But when you ask the question, you have to plan what questions to ask and in what order, before you can take the first step forward.
I hear that some schools in my homeland are beginning to teach children how to ask questions. For example, instead of asking “what does three and four add up to?” the children are asked “what are two numbers that add up to seven?” A good start, but this is still close-ended – there are finite answers and no room for coming up with unique questions.
Then to instill unbounded creativity, we need to teach children how to ask open-ended questions as well. How do we achieve this? Well, that is an open-ended question in itself.
Where there are questions, there is opportunity for growth. If we do not ask, we will never get to the answers, so we better start Q’ing to find new clues.