The great Professor Sugata Mitra was again in Australia recently posing some big and provocative questions at the conferences where he was a featured speaker. Mitra is famous for his “Hole In The Wall” experiment in the slums of India where he proved that children can learn … even in a foreign language … even without any education … and even without Teachers. Ouch!
The grenade that Mitra was this time dropping on our educative assumptions was around assessment. He opined that our obsessive pattern of assessing by using only knowledge level exams and tests is counter productive to the capabilities our young people will need to be employable in a global economy.
Mitra wants us to ask big questions and to challenge young people to be more curious and enquiring. He wants us to ask them “Where does the universe end?” and “Why do people cry?”.
The best explanation for the crying question I’ve heard is that it’s a psychological “button” that’s pushed when emotions are so strong or the combination of emotions so complex that self-expression verbally is too difficult for us.
I’m not sure about that. I think I’ll ask some Year 12 students … or perhaps I’d get a more honest answer from some Preps!
In the gaps this semester – in the five minutes while you’re waiting for a bell or for a bus – could we ask our students some big questions to build the curiosity and problem solving qualities that we know deep down that they’ll really need?