John Senior looks at an approach that will help G&T students develop creative thinking

We are rational beings, and it is in our nature to ask questions. Dogs and cats live in ‘a world of perception’… For them the present experience is everything, and thought no more than a fragile bridge of anticipation, which leads from this experience to the next one. We, however, are beset by the need to explain. Faced with something unusual, our thought is not ‘What next?’ but ‘Why?’ By answering the second of those questions we can answer the first.’

Roger Scruton

Asking the right question is not easy. Higher-order questioning is not easy either; however, the questions posed, the answers arrived at and the journey between can be challenging and stimulating, with many benefits for G&T pupils.

A simple ‘observation’ question can be asked that starts to develop higher-order questioning. What colour is the duck? The duck is brown, with some white and blue, the duck’s beak is orange and the feet a pale green. ‘Why?’ is a common starting point for developing focused questions.
However, as the question ‘Why?’ is a little unfocused, the student has to establish more clearly what answer is being sought. One could ask, why are those colours present in the plumage of the duck? Or rather more interestingly, what is the duck peer group response to the colours of fellow ducks with regard to social harmony and peace among ducks collectively? Or one could ask what is colour? Or what is it to frame a question with regard to the universe we live in? Why do I respond to colour? What is Brown, Orange or Green? What in fact, is a duck?

One has to be sure what the basis of a question is. If you ask a question an answer is possible – whether it is useful, or interesting, or novel, or the answer you sought is another question.
While the importance of asking the right question cannot be overemphasised, examination of ‘answers’ can lead to higher-order questioning and a learning pathway to understanding the need for accuracy in framing questions inspiring more advanced work. Clearly, if you ask the ‘wrong question’ this may solve a particular problem and the student will get an answer, but it may not be the answer to the real problem. Ask the ‘right question’ and if in fact it is a good question the ‘answer’ will be ‘right’ and also, more importantly, will stimulate further higher-order questions. Additionally, we could speculate on what question or questions that could have been asked were not in fact asked.

The real challenge for any educator is to define the problem: what is it that an accurate question would answer? Defining the problem should stimulate the formulation of a series of possible questions. Working backwards in this way produces an archaeology of answers that may lead to some challenging conclusions.

Examples of higher-order questions
In the left-hand column of the table on the opposite page there are five ‘answers’ (‘Recycling domestic waste’, ‘Buy a mobile phone’, etc). The question that resulted in the answer may at first seem obvious; however, careful questioning and discussion can lead to the asking of higher-order questioning.

Developing creative thinking
Another approach to developing creative thinking while also developing the student’s ability to question at an increasingly higher level would be to provide a series of answers and require the student to produce an appropriate question (see table right). Whatever the result of ‘right or wrong’ questions, students, with guidance, will see the importance of establishing correct question formation that in turn will develop higher-order thinking and critical approaches to research and study; and develop lateral and creative thinking while, most importantly, challenging accepted paradigms and conventional solutions.

Even subjects as difficult as mathematics may preferably begin to be taught in everyday life; this was shown by Plato when he reported how Socrates made an illiterate boy solve a geometrical problem just by asking him the right questions in the right order.
Arne Friemuth Petersen.

References 1. Roger Scruton, An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Philosophy, p15, Duckbacks, ISBN 0-7156-3206-X.

2. Arne Friemuth Petersen, ‘Some Reflections on Motivating Situations and Situational Teaching’, Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, p227, vol 38, nos 3-4, 1994.

John Senior, Otherwise Ltd,

Higher-order questioning and developing a creative approach
This approach can help gifted and talented children to: – develop critically, creatively, reflectively and develop logical thinking habits – approach problem-solving using a developed imaginative approach, using their initiative and flexibility when seeking solutions – identify and prioritise key issues – appropriately define and redefine the problems to be solved – use careful analysis of questions enabling an empathetic approach to questioning, thinking from a wider view – make connections and establish patterns and relationships – question assumptions about approaches to research and develop research ideas – make decisions on the basis of experience and supporting evidence – evaluate processes and outcomes – develop an embedded inquiring and professional approach to researching and explore both appropriate questioning techniques and methodologies to ‘answer’ analysis and testing

– develop further questions.