Questions and Effective Learning

I always encourage my students (and every one else) to ask questions—all the time. Asking questions for which we do not know the answer is essential to internalizing how little we know and to aim toward always learning, and it is part of how I teach primary sources, see #11 on this page.

Here are some sample questions. These are effective for more much than just Historical studies:

  • Why are “you” “here”? Why?
  • Who am I? Who are we? Why?
  • Where am I going? Where are we going? Why?
  • Where have I been? Where have we been? Why?
  • What do I have control over? What do we have control over? Why?
  • What relationships exist between times, places, peoples, groups, etc? Why?
  • For a given situation or thought: What does this mean? Who is leading? Who is opposing? Who is following and why? What other situations/thoughts/events are occurring at roughly the same time? What are the hopes and fears? How do these change and when? Why?
  • For any given anything: What other points-of-view or examples exists? How? Why?
  • How are groups and their identities constructed, and what importance do they have? How do identities overlap? How has power and when? Why?
  • What does the “mundane” or everyday tell us about the “profound”? Why?
  • Where is the will to live and grow? Why?
  • How is power so powerful? Why?
  • What do I not know to ask because I know “so little” (or because I know “so much”)? Why?
  • How does my privilege, experience, and system of beliefs blind me? Why?
  • Why?

See also:


Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

Tags: , ,

6 replies

  1. All good questions. I use — instead of “quick writing” at the beginning of class — “long writing” where students are given some text such as an infographic, then asked to practice DEAL as a critical analysis strategy — describe, examine, articulate learning. The “examine” stage requires for the student to generate questions for herself and then, as possible, answer them.

    No multiple choice on this list.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The whole process is called DEAL (describe, examine, articulate learning). The articulation of learning is seeing the examination within the constructs we’re discussing (gender, ethnicity, class, etc. And yes, I realize that these are both real and constructed, but for a first year class, we approach them as constructs). The students must come to a conclusion about how gender is perceived and reflected within their community of focus — gender roles and expectations and exceptions to those expectations. All this, framed rhetorically.


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  1. Part of How I Study History in 14 Points « Andrew Joseph Pegoda, A.B.D.
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