The headline of this month’s Harvard Education Letter is seductively simple: “Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions.” The advice is undeniably practical. But will asking questions alone suffice to create engaging classroom dialogues? The article highlights the Question Formulation Technique (QFT), a technique for encouraging students to direct inquiry in the classroom, engage with each other and develop critical thinking skills. A teacher whose students are under-engaged in the classroom would do well by her students to study the QFT technique and begin testing elements of it. If nothing else, QFT shows that “Any questions?” following a lecture will not provoke many questions. To engage students, questions must be engaging, too. Though effective, QFT is only half the equation. Students need to ask questions, yes. But they need to answer them, too. The teacher plays the role of guide, facilitator, and provocateur. Most teachers I had operated under the [...]
Learning an additional language is a lot like learning how to paint with colors after a lifetime of using grayscale. I took Spanish and French in high school, and then Russian at university. Each one has helped me re-experience a world that was only ever monolingual. When I was given the opportunity to practice my Spanish skills, I took it. That opportunity was going to Mexico. Although I had just graduated from college and had several years’ worth of studying the language, I still only spoke Spanish like a grade-schooler. Being humbled was the best learning experience of my life. It was as if I was given a second chance to learn how to walk and talk.
When I decided to first go abroad, I was 17 years old and entering my freshman year of college. I walked right over to the student activities fair on the quad at Syracuse University and picked up two study abroad pamphlets from the table: Florence and London. The idea of leaving the U.S. for the first time and traveling the land across the pond was so exciting and imminent on that first day of classes. Fast forward to junior year, and I never made it to that study abroad experience. I stayed on campus to become a resident advisor, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Although the idea to travel never left my mind as friends went off to have their adventures. Like many college graduates, I left campus and moved on and into New York City for my first job working at a talent [...]