Last week, Nicole Bosworth, Director of Literacy at Scholastic Education, wrote about asking "why" questions to get kids thinking deeply about what they read. She wrote:
Teachers have been using literature to convey moral anecdotes to students since the inception of schooling. However, research has shown that early learners often focus more on the details rather than the overarching theme, and miss the story’s moral. In a recent study, "Explaining the Moral of the Story," published in the Journal of Cognition (Walker, 2017), researchers found that by simply asking students why questions, teachers can help learners tease out broader meaning from a story, such as the moral.
Asking why questions allows students to move away from reading questions in which they are asked only to repeat back facts from the text. Why questions can yield creative and dyanamic thinking, and robust discussion. It supports comprehension. (Such an approach is, of course, at the heart of Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst, as Bosworth notes.)
In the October issue of ASCD's Educational Leadership, Ronald Beghetto writes about the benefits of "inviting uncertainty into the classroom."
Put simply, uncertainty is what makes a problem a problem. If you already know how to move from A to Z, then you don't have a problem—yet our students will face problems in life. If we want to unleash student problem solving, we need to give them chances to respond well to uncertainty in the context of a supportive environment.
As Bosworth's why questions encourage students to engage in deeper, abstract thinking, Beghetto's uncertainty allows students to explore, experiment and problem-solve in a supportive environment.