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  Questions & Discussions

Image: pipe with oozing pollutionThe importance of questions and questioning for both staff and students is touched upon in the pedagogy section, but merits re-emphasis. Indeed counter to the usual approach, teachers might consider providing more answers and asking students for the questions. The difficulty of designing questions to elicit answers of the sort required is well illustrated in the many poor questionnaires we are faced with, and again through critical thinking and ICTs, groups may be able to extract more sensible and reliable responses in a variety of contexts e.g.

Work with 2 partners to produce no more than 8 questions which you would ask of an honest politician and/or an honest scientist in a radio interview entitled “Climate change – the true story”. Starting with the Review and context: Counterviews and links page, manage the group research and use peer review to short list the candidate questions. Record a selection of your discussions as a podcast. Keep a record of pages visited in and external to the site.

Image: car exhaust fumesQuestions form an important part of discussions and debate, and students need to learn to balance passion and emotive response against considered judgement. Thus in the context of the Stern Review, the many controversial issues offer great opportunities to rehearse reason and logic, objectivity and a particular rationale. So too do the seeming “scientific truths”. They also offer scope to carry out thorough research and to manage technical precision e.g.

Choose a brief statement from the executive summary report of the Stern Review to corroborate or refute. Cite the sources you use and say why you believe these to be authoritative e.g.

“The stocks of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides and a number of gases that arise from industrial processes) are rising, as a result of human activity.” or
“The current level or stock of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is equivalent to around 430 parts per million (ppm) CO2, compared with only 280ppm before the Industrial Revolution.”

Image: working wind turbineDiscussion tends to imply oral interchange perhaps in a class situation but can equally refer to written analysis by an individual. Questioning and discussion are key to unravelling a student’s understanding, and indeed misunderstanding. This is especially true from a constructivist view e.g. in science contexts, where the student’s ditching of misconceptions is key to understanding and the construction of their “own” schema. There are illustrations consistent with this in the Carleton College - “Starting Point”- Using Socratic Questioning link.

Amongst the links for this section there are some which include a “quiz” and these inevitably focus on shorter and predominantly knowledge level questions. Nevertheless, these can have a motivating effect for some and can be a speedy check for teachers and self check for students. In the context of students taking increasing responsibility for their own learning, it is opportune to discuss the nature of questions not only in terms like open, closed, those which simply seek clarification, and those which probe assumptions, evidence or consequence, but also through relating them to e.g. Bloom’s taxonomy and thinking skills.

  Climate science from climate scientists – authoritative/ controversial live blog
Carleton College – “Starting Point”- Using Socratic Questioning
New Zealand based “Climate Change Classroom” activities, “quiz”
tutor2u - Online Learning Resource - Economics, Business, Politics - Quizes, revision notes, presentations, blogs and student forums at GCSE & A-level
Met Office – activities inc data, GCSE projects, essay questions
Greenhouse Gas Online – UK, contemporary, papers, presentations Q/A
Carleton College – “Starting Point”- Peer Review

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