C4 What if questions

C4 What if questions

More Teaching Procedures 1st Edition, page 33
January 2012

This in one sense is a variation of C1 Promoting and Using Students Questions that is sufficiently distinct to be worth a separate listing.

Questions that start with "What if" are questions that postulate a change, often a very imaginative change, to an existing situation that stimulates students to think much more deeply about that situation, eg, "What if paper were 10 times strong than it is?" stimulates thinking about the relationship between the properties of materials and their uses. In Integrating PEEL Strategies and the Use of Laptops in Year 7 Geography, Ann Symons and Sue Odgers asked a series of "What if" questions about a diagram of the sun and earth - the diagram provided a resource to help students come up with (fiercely competing) answers to questions such as "What if the earth stopped spinning".

"What If" questions can be proposed by teachers, but also can be encouraged from students. This, of course, means that they must be taken seriously, although students do need to learn that some questions will have no definite answer. Framing "what if" questions engages students in lateral and creative thinking - challenging things normally taken as given. This is a valuable intellectual skill.


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