Critical Thinking & Questioning in the Classroom

Hi Everyone,

I’m teaching an undergraduate course this semester titled, “Schooling in Diverse Communities” and I’m really enjoying it so far.

As an educator, one aspect of my teaching philosophy is that of freedom of thinking.  We talk a lot about freedom of speech, voice, press, religion, etc….but we don’t emphasize enough the freedom of thought.

In class today, I was going over an assignment: An assignment in which students have to read the assigned texts, write a critical reflection of those readings (not a summary) and then pose 3 questions they have about the text/the ideas presented in the text/the author’s perspective, whatever.  I also encourage them to formulate their own opinions about the text too–opinions that might diverge from the author’s point-of-view.  I also said that these questions are not necessarily answerable at that particular moment; these are just questions that are not necessarily rhetorical, but they are lingering/hanging questions that the student should have about the text.

One student then asked, “Well, where do the questions come from?”

And I said, “They come from your head.  These are questions that originate in your mind”.  And I can tell that she had a hard time grappling with my answer.  And we continued to have some more dialogue about the assignment, but I also shared with her (and the rest of the class) a key aspect of education: That education should prepare you to think.  And when a person is raising a question, that indicates that there is some thinking happening.

Why are we not comfortable with asking questions? As a society, it is often frowned upon if we ask questions because it can be interpreted as being offensive; as being disrespectful to authority; as being uneducated about a particular concept or idea or whatever.

The purpose of an education is not to just receive a piece of paper after a certain period of time, but we should also be taught how to critically think, how to raise critical questions, and how to take charge of our own learning.  At this moment in history, it is more important than ever to be comfortable with formulating well-thought out opinions and questions.

You are the sailor of your own ship; you are the author of your own book.

Peace,

~Dr. Manning

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