If I could only assign two books on teaching for the rest of my teacher education career, they would be Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design and Ken Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do. Bain’s book encapsulates the incredible power of asking compelling questions, and Understanding by Design explains how to build learning experiences backwards from questions.
Bain has a new book out, and Alison Head at Project Information Literacy recently did an extended interview with him about his new book, libraries, learning, and questions. (Alison is a fellow Berkman Fellow, and conducts terrific research on college students and their information seeking practices).
What I love about the interview is that technology plays no role. The context of the dialogue is about libraries and student learning. And of course, the information-storage mechanisms for libraries have profoundly changed in recent decades, but those changes never come up in the interview. Why? Because the first real step in the learning process is asking compelling questions. And as Pablo Picasso said, “Computers are useless; they can only give you answers.”
Technology has a powerful role to play in learning, but crucial domains of human psychology and motivation remain basically unchallenged by new modes of communication and investigation. Nothing unlocks human potential for learning like questions that demand answers and problems that get under your skin.
Ken Bain remains one of my favorite advocates for the power of asking questions.
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