"Curiosity is the engine of achievement." ― Sir Ken Robinson
The teacher started to ask questions to review the last class and to enter into a brand-new discussion today. However, students did not feel like answering those questions posed by the teacher as if they were not there to face any questions ever. Only a few of them interacted, but most of them gave a look like the questions were bullets and the teacher was a shooter. So, the students hunched and bent down to ignore the questions.
The students did not ask any questions either. They became passive listeners and listened to the teachers like obedient and timid pupils without insinuating any argument or debate. So, the class was quiet and did not move forward. Nothing really happened. So, whether the students understood the lecture remained ambiguous. Maybe, the students understood everything or they did not get anything - who knows?
In many cases, this is the picture of our classrooms: very few interactions, only a few questions, and a long narration of unreceptive lectures delivered by the teacher. This is more common in public schools, colleges, and universities where the number of students is too heavy to deal with on the part of a teacher.
Apart from that, many teachers fail to generate and stimulate students' thinking domain. They just depend on plain lectures and sometimes act like mere sages on the stage. Thus, sometimes they become very authoritative figures who cannot be questioned and challenged.
Academic institutions are created to foster creative and critical thinking. Ensuring and developing a critical and creative atmosphere is a must to create a bunch of progressive thinkers and doers. And, to think critically students must ask questions and teachers must entertain questions to pave the way for further knowledge and wisdom. If students do not feel the urge to ask questions that means either the lecture was boring or the teacher was intimidating.
Aristotle once said, "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." We need to learn to contradict and confuse to make our mind a liberal and advanced one. In this 21st century, we cannot take anything for granted and believe blindly.
We must inculcate a curious mind. Once the earth was considered flat; it was believed that the earth moves around the sun; however, through questions and investigations scientists came to know that the earth is round and it revolves around the sun. The wonderful questioning words - why, how, and what - changed the world and will continue to change it.
So, we can follow the old Socratic Method where the students lead any type of discussion by asking questions. One question leads to another question and then a cooperative and collective discussion ensues. Thus, the discussion and interpretation go further and further, and simultaneously knowledge and wisdom unfolds, like when someone opens a pandora's box.
Questions are the route to discovery and invention. A good question is a creative force. It is the precursor to freedom too. We cannot be too obedient to our master like a devoted dog. A teacher must not treat his students as obedient slaves and should not create a master-slave ambiance in and outside the classroom.
In the same way, a student must not always remain passive and silent just for the sake of being too polite or to escape studies. How come a young student remains passive in the classroom? He or she must get up and stand up to raise questions in the moment of doubt. Sometimes, a student must contradict to get to the core of things, as William Blake, an American poet, says "without contraries is no progression".
And, of course, to think and to ask questions we need to observe and read a lot. Without reading, our knowledge will be limited. Reading gives us food for thought and incites us to ponder over various issues of the world. Bacon in his essay "Of Studies" once said, "Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh to consider." As a student, we need to think, ponder, reflect and evaluate our journey of life in this world like a philosopher. We must observe and philosophise our life to comprehend it in depth.
Learning does not take place without reading, thinking, and asking questions. If teachers and students can ensure a vibrant 'questioning spirit' environment in the classroom, it genuinely becomes a super engaging class. And, where there is engagement, there is learning; and where there is learning, progress makes inroads.
We must think about our life and question any sort of doubt, authority, or anomaly so that nobody can exert hegemonic and unauthorised power upon us. Hence, a question can be a powerful tool to break the shackle of authority and illegal power practice. A question is a bullet that does not cause any bloodshed instead it provokes a thought to unleash the truth.
Md. Ariful Islam Laskar is an Assistant Professor and he teaches English Literature at Daffodil International University.