Just as I finished my summer teaching, I know I want to say more about “students asking questions”. The more I think about it, the more I find asking (the right) questions important.
In the previous post, I talked mostly on behalf of myself as a teacher. Here I want to take the perspective of a student, and explain how asking teacher questions benefits students.
Avoiding mistakes because of mis/un-communication.
What really triggered me to write this post is the little conversation my student and I had when I wrapped up the last class. We had an open-book in-class writing assessment in the second last class. They were given three hours, a data file with instructions, and an open chatroom in case there were confusions or general questions.
So the student said the instructions for citing sources were confusing. The fact is, aside from the instruction, each part of the data file gives a specific instruction for how many sources to use. Since no one raised any questions about this, I assumed they had all understood.
For my part, I was to blame for making assumptions. For the students’ part, most high-scoring students did not commit the mistake; this means students who felt the need for clarifying should have done so.
But they responded with silence. I believe I shouldn’t care about their grades more than they should?
Benefitting your fellow classmates.
A friend of mine, who’s a secondary school teacher, loved being the “class rep” when he studied his MA. He explained that being the class rep gets essential information directly from teachers, e.g. assignment deadlines, exam coverage, etc.
He likes being an insider, not for the fear of missing out but for the joy of being resourceful. He would share the insider news to his classmates so that no one would miss an assignment deadline.
This is definitely an act of altruism: you risk being called the teacher’s pet just to make sure no one gets left behind.
And because of this act, seeing it from another angle, gives you some sort of capital to maintain good terms with your peers. No one doesn’t like a smart, resourceful, proactive person around them.
As a student, showing evidences of positive attributes is crucial for excelling his or her study, as well as advancing his career beyond school.
Understanding your learning progress.
The act of asking question, from a linguistic point of view, is to elicit information from someone knowing more than you. This is the reason why you go to school: getting info from ones who probably know a lot more than you.
So learning how to ask is to disarm your pride, admitting you know less. Yeah it’s difficult, especially when you fear asking “stupid questions”, causing teachers to roll their eyes and tell you off.
But you don’t get your grades deducted by asking stupid questions. And you have to ask in order to see if the question is stupid or not.
If it is, it means you may have to go back to the basic concepts with our help; if it’s not, the question is then a legitimate concern worthy of bringing up and discussing. That is, you successfully achieve Point 1 and 2 above: you clear things up for your classmates, and they like you. Congratulations!
This means, asking questions is also a learning process to see how far you’ve progressed in the subject. Through discussing interesting and important questions, you grow more than passively receiving knowledge from your teachers.
The previous and present posts about asking teachers questions eventually hope to make the point clear that tertiary education (actually all education settings) requires a lot of autonomy. We give students whatever resources we find useful, and indeed it’s up to students whether or not to take them in, how to take them in, and what else to look for from there.
So most of us may not need your “respect”. It is just a “face” thing, at least to me. The true respect comes from self-respect: respecting your study, your status, your time.
Nor do we want your “Thank a Teacher” cards. Thankfulness comes from actions: thinking proactively, learning proactively, asking proactively.