The best route to history class and meaningful learning are one and the same. They are products of asking the right questions.
Earlier this month, a building administrator excitedly shared with me a great lesson he recently observed. A science teacher was discussing the topic of testable questions. He provided a brief overview of the topic, then challenged students to solve his testable question, “What is the best route to take when traveling from gym class to history class?” It’s a simple and relevant question but it required complex problem solving skills. Students timed the walk and noticed travel time varied between hours. In essence, the best route might vary each hour. A simple question spurred action and provided students the opportunity to utilize higher order thinking skills.
I love this lesson. It’s engaging, it’s fun, and it utilizes all four Depth of Knowledge (DOK) levels. While state assessments measure higher order thinking skills, and 21st century jobs will increasingly require advanced problem solving skills, today’s classrooms too often ask questions at the recall level. I know I was guilty of this during my time in the classroom until I received some great advice from my building principal.
During a post-observation discussion, my principal asked me to begin scripting questions for each lesson. While I bristled initially, I found this exercise to be incredibly useful. It helped me avoid the pitfall of low-level DOK 1 questioning.
This is essential if we want students to move beyond knowledge acquisition and towards knowledge application. The DOK resource many educators are familiar with is the infamous DOK Wheel. Recently, I stumbled across a great blog post by Erik Francis entitled, “What EXACTLY Is Depth of Knowledge? (Hint: It’s NOT a Wheel!)”. Francis contends the DOK “wheel of misfortune” is a poor and inaccurate representation of depth of knowledge and offers his own visual titled “Webb’s Depth of Knowledge Model Context Ceilings” (see below). This is a solid resource for any educator looking to develop their questioning skills.
Great questions transform classrooms and enhance learning opportunities. They transport students to history class and beyond.