Learning to Self-Question


While working with your children on end-of-year projects, it can be easy to get bogged down in the material and lose sight of the point. More than anything else, education should provide the tools and strategies we need to take charge of our own learning. When a student is asked to complete a research project about their favourite animal, for example, the teacher is likely more interested in the planning, research, writing, and editing skills the task will entail than she is in the life cycle of the hummingbird. Most adults understand this aspect of education, but young students may not.

Before, during, and after each major school assignment, it is helpful to encourage students to ask themselves a series of questions about their learning. You can have these conversations together as a family, or ask your children to reflect on their learning in special “learning journals.” Either way, encouraging your children to identify and prioritize the purpose of their learning will help them to become empowered, active students.

The questions listed below offer a helpful starting point, but any questions students ask themselves about how and why they learn will be a step in the right direction.

When a task is assigned, ask…

What is the learning purpose of this task? (For example, “Learn how to write a five paragraph essay,” not “Prove that Superman is better than Batman.”)

Before beginning to work, ask…

What are my goals for this task?

What strategies and tools will I use? (For example, “I’ll use my agenda to plan out my time and I’ll use the planning chart we got from the teacher to keep track of my research.”)

Why these strategies or tools? (For example, “My agenda helps me to stay on track and the planning chart will help me remember which facts are the most important.”)

While working, ask…

Is this strategy working?

If so, why?

If not, why not? What strategy should I try next?

After completing a task, ask…

What did I do that worked?

What did I try that didn’t work?

Did I achieve my goals?

If so, which of my actions helped me to achieve them?

If not, which of my actions prevented me from achieving them?

After receiving teacher feedback, ask…

Does this feedback match my own assessment of my work?

If so, why? If not, why not?

Does this feedback point to any areas where I should try to grow and improve?

What can I do to improve in these areas?

After some time has passed, ask…

What are my go-to strategies/tools for these types of tasks? (For example, “my agenda, graphic organizers, my editing checklist, etc.)

Why do I like to use these strategies/tools?

Which strategies/tools do not usually work for me?

Why are these strategies/tools ineffective?

What does my strategy toolbox (my list of preferred strategies) tell me about who I am as a learner and thinker?

For more information about encouraging students to become active, empowered learners, please contact Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space at 416.925.1225 or visit http://www.ruthrumack.com.


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