5Ws and the H Gateway To Scientific Temperament
Study of Science not only provides information and facts about our surroundings but also shapes our understanding regarding the universe and of ourselves. The scientific temperament of an individual is defined by searching the answer for his/her own questions.
Let’s recall the famous questions put forward by the greatest scientists on this earth.
‘Why does an apple fall from the tree on the ground and why does the moon not fall onto the earth?’
‘Why is the sky blue?’
–C V Raman
‘Why do the Galapagos Islands have so many wildlife and plant species not found elsewhere in the world?’
‘What would the universe look like if I rode through it on a beam of light?’
By asking these kinds of fundamental questions, they were able to discover laws, formulae and theories that produced tremendous breakthroughs in the world of science.
Science is a highly evolved discipline and considered to be the most influential field of human knowledge. New discoveries each day change our perception about the world and we begin to understand our surroundings better. This has only been made possible by constant questioning. We do question our old beliefs and ideas and compare them with the current ideas. While doing this we may find better solutions to many problems. In this way science has become a part of our daily lives. Therefore, we should never stop questioning in life. Young children get introduced to the surroundings by asking their parents several questions at home and asking teachers at school. To keep this curiosity alive, it is very important that we as parents and teachers provide factually correct information to the child so that he develops a truly scientific temperament; but it is often difficult for an average parent to answer all the questions appropriately. Most of the parents are annoyed at the volley of questions. Either they give incorrect answers or simply ask children to stop questioning. In this way parents kill the instinctive curiosity of young children knowingly or unknowingly. This suppresses the questioning and enquiring propensity in the child and if he receives the same response from his teachers, he turns out to be a passive learner in future.
For young children ‘more questioning means more exploring’. Children who ask questions learn more rapidly than who don’t ask. Questioning involves great mental concentration.
Teaching the science curriculum, we must focus on ‘inquiry based learning’ rather than simply ‘fact based memorization’. Asking questions in science helps students to challenge the rigid impressions and facts besides breaking myths and superstitions.
Encouraging questioning helps to bring the true spirit of science in our educational system and the art of asking good questions constitutes an important skill to foster a scientific temperament. If a child is placed in an environment that does not encourage active questioning, then this skill will not become an active habit of mind. A teacher must know the art and science of questioning to cater to the child’s inquisitiveness which will help him to grow and evolve into a knowledgeable person. Who, where, why, what, when and how (5Ws &H) are the basics for all kinds of questioning. Let’s understand how a teacher can make the best use of these in the science curriculum. Questioning during classroom discussions helps us to teach as well as learn.
Questioning on the part of the teacher
While dealing with the subject matter the teacher asks the class a wide range of questions. The kind of questions that the teacher asks and the way the teacher asks these questions can influence the cognitive process in the child’s mind. To invite a wide range of responses from the class, the teacher may prefer a low order or higher order of questioning.
The teacher asks low order questions to check the understanding of basic information and to see if the students are paying attention in the class. During guided discussion, the teacher asks conceptual questions to elicit students’ ideas, facilitate productive thinking and incite imagination. Intelligent questions stimulate, inform and inspire students. This type of questioning provides on-going assessment by the teacher by commenting on the students’ response and encouraging multiple responses. Therefore, a teacher can generate feedback about the students’ understanding.
Questioning on the part of the student
The minds of certain students are full of curiosity and they throw an array of questions at the teacher. Many of the questions do not have quick, easy or immediate answers. In case, the teacher doesn’t know the answer, she/he should not be disheartened. But a teacher must understand that these questions become the seeds for investigation for learning by sharing where students and the teacher can learn together.
Questioning as a tool
A teacher can make use of efficient questioning in a number of ways –
- To test students’ preparation
- To create interest in the subject matter
- To develop insight so that the students can see new relationships
- To strengthen learning through reviews and summary
- To monitor behaviour and attitude of the students
- To achieve objectives of learning
- To initiate innovative thinking
Communication via questioning
Questioning enhances student-teacher interaction beyond subject matter discussion. This helps the teacher to find more about students – build rapport and show empathy. Questions can be used to explore the feelings, beliefs, opinions, ideas and attitudes of the students. Intellectually engaging questions help to stimulate and focus the students’ thinking and help the teacher to understand their thinking. Such questions provide diagnostic information about the students that can guide a teacher further in instructional decisions.
Question Paper Design
The students should be able to make full use of their cognitive abilities while solving a question paper. The questioning in the question paper should be based on comprehension, reasoning, analysis, application, creative thinking and descriptive abilities of the students and some memorization.
Let’s understand the difference between the following: A good scientific question builds up from what you already know and its answer leads to a cascade of questions; so the students’ thinking is stimulated and they take more interest in the subject matter.
The use of questioning skill is essential to systematic investigation and deeper understanding of concepts. Simple questions are designed for the slow learner whereas advanced questions are designed for the rapid learner. So, a teacher needs to plan questions carefully by thinking through all possible questions and must understand that students should be trained and taught to ask good questions. Students who ask questions are involved in a dynamic learning process and become co-constructors of all knowledge.
Some students assume that they know all the main things that they need to know and they don’t bother to ask more. Certain students think that by asking questions, they will appear to be weak, ignorant and unsure. This fear prevents them from asking questions. Therefore, it is equally important to know what we must take care of while questioning. He, who asks a question is a fool for a minute; he, who does not ask, remains a fool forever.
- ‘Vague’ questions are difficult to be answered in a defined manner. Moreover, they will make you enter into limitless discussion. Such as ‘How vast is space?’
- ‘Tugging’ questions may lead to confusion instead of drawing the correct conclusions. Such as ‘Why don’t we have three ears instead of two?’
- ‘Guessing’ questions prevent correct observation and experimentation by students. Such as ‘How many birds can nest in one tree?’
The question should be clear and should clarify the information needed. Questions should match the level of the student. ‘The quality of a question is not judged by its complexity but by the complexity of thinking it involves.’
Being learners, we must keep ourselves updated all the time to satisfy the queries of the students in an appropriate manner so that they feel contented. Let’s share our knowledge through questioning and make the science curriculum more appealing and challenging.
Rashmi Prabha is the Vice Principal in St. Kabir’s School, Hisar, Haryana and is currently teaching biology to senior classes. She is M Sc from MS University, Baroda. She has a great passion for the environment and engages in projects and activities on environment awareness and conservation involving students, teachers and parents. She is an online teacher and faculty of the Lund University for evaluating Global Young Master’s Programme on Sustainable Development. Various organisations have honoured her for making outstanding contribution to education. She received the CISCE Derozio Award, the Educationist of the Year Award (twice) by Silver Zone Foundation, the Paryavaran Puraskar by Paryavaran Mitra Organisation associated with the Ministry of Environment, etc. She writes for the Siksha Saarthi, a magazine published by the Haryana Government and Teacher magazine published by ACER.