– The Key: An INQUIRY-BASED Program utilizing THOUGHTFUL QUESTIONING
Up to this point we have discussed qualities in a social and emotional learning program that basically make our job easier – a COMPREHENSIVE program keeps things simple for our budgets & curriculum. A program with NATURAL PROGRESSION streamlines, strengthens and integrates lessons. However, the key component for helping children and developing life skills for children is an INQUIRY-BASED program.
An ‘inquiry-based’ program means we must ask questions.
How do we prepare our children to know how to make healthy choices and teach them how to choose? The very nature of this lesson is questioning. In order to choose, our students must have choices to make – asking them questions requires ‘choosing’ an answer. From the most basic standpoint of methodology an inquiry-based approach is the only logical option.
Personal growth and development, personal responsibility, creative problem solving, social consciousness and emotional intelligence all come from within. Asking thoughtful questions awakens that voice within. Asking thoughtful questions is by far the most effective way of teaching children values.
When we initiate our children into this process of decision-making at an early age we give them a leg up on being comfortable with this process. We protect them now from freezing in the face of options later. There are more than a few of you reading this article for who, as a child, every decision was made for you, the option to choose was never given. I know the fear of facing decision-making. Had we been introduced to inquiry-based learning at an early age we would have developed these life skills and learned to negotiate this essential path of emotional maturity and adulthood.
But allowing a child to choose has an even bigger payoff. It subliminally manifests responsibility for the decisions one makes, pride in making the choice and ownership of the outcome. The lessons of choice are learned far more deeply than any dogmatic instruction of a precept or value. In simplest terms – when did a child ever do anything you told them to do – or ever really learn from being told what to do? Let’s teach them to choose and then let choose for themselves.
Thoughtful questioning is the mode you are looking for – not right and wrong answers. It is the rare decision that is purely a choice between right and wrong. We know from our own everyday experience that making a decision, choosing an option, comes by weighing ideas, values and outcomes. Almost every decision is not about ‘one or the other’ but about a series of concepts that must be sorted out. Thoughtful questioning leads to examination & reflection. Individual reflection allows relaxation and release from the pressure of knowing the right answer. It gives the freedom to truly evaluate and explore.
Additionally, thoughtful questions level the playing field among your students. Your shyest student and your most outgoing will have equally valid and ‘correct’ answers because they will be responding with answers that are unique to each of them, based in their own feelings & experience.
Thoughtful questions open the door to discussion. This sharing of thoughts, fears and experiences begins the process of teaching kids empathy. As your students discover they have similar feelings, these revelations offer the opportunity to build self-confidence. It draws the group closer where the effect of bullying and other hurtful behaviors can be revealed, examined and understood.
Asking thoughtful questions is teaching diversity and acceptance. When someone we think of as ‘different’ is experiencing the same hopes and fears we are how can they really be so very different after all?
But perhaps the greatest benefit of an inquiry-based program based in thoughtful questioning is that it builds trust. Trust creates an environment safe for deep examination of fears and motivations. Trust offers the potential for guidance and mentoring. No meaningful social and emotional learning can be achieved without the presence of trust among participants, including with you the teacher & facilitator.
You will know a program is inquiry-based asking thoughtful questions if the questions asked allow for investigation, discussion and the sharing of experience. Often thoughtful questions lead to more questions before an outcome is determined. Questions that require a ‘yes/no’ answer are rarely thoughtful. Questions that suggest there is a single definitive choice are not what you are looking for. Questions that are didactically imposed from a position of teacher as authority figure do not provide the atmosphere of thoughtful reflection and introspection key to an inquiry-based system that leads to emotional intelligence, emotional maturity and trust.
There is no better inquiry-based social and emotional learning program available than THE MANADOOB PROGRAM FOR SELF-ESTEEM. The first question asked in the Ask It Workbook, the hands on lesson and exercise plan that accompanies the 28 chapter story of Wella, the 10 soon to be 11 year old heroine who doesn’t quite fit in, is “What is it like where you live?” Each Chapter in the Ask-It Workbook is designed to build and grow self-esteem and social awareness in kids as they explore. There are no wrong answers. In Chapter 15, halfway through The Manadoob Program, the question is asked, “If you’ve ever been bullied or bullied someone else, what happened and how did it make you feel?” Each Chapter has specific goals that the Manadoob Advisory Committee has identified to stimulate the growth of a child’s self-awareness, self-empowerment, kindness and social consciousness. One of the final thoughtful questions asked in The Manadoob Program Ask It Workbook is “What are two things you can do to help others?
Thoughtful inquiry-based questioning is the basis of the relationship of trust between you and your students. This bond of trust is the key to making change in your community. When they recognize you are willing as their guide and mentor to allow them time and space to investigate their thoughts and feelings, listen to their answers and respect their conclusions, they will begin to trust you with the experiences that have shaped them into the individuals they are becoming. They will look for your guidance as they realize you will not judge them based on a right or wrong answer or choice, but rather help them explore their options and come to a better understanding of the person they want to be. It will open the door to change and the maturity you hope to define to improve the relationship in your community and eradicate the problems that plague your school.
Our fourth and final installment will discuss the essential role of a COMMUNITY ENVIRONMENT when selecting your social and emotional learning program.