Asking the Right Questions

A few weeks ago, I proposed a new assignment to my CHW 3M (History before the 16th century) students. Though the assignment went through several incarnations, we settled on the following guidelines:

  • students would choose three events from the rise, golden age, and fall of Rome (so, 9 events in total)  and briefly summarize them
  • students would generate questions based on each event that they could use in the next unit to study the culture of their choice. Student choices included China, Japan, Mongolia, and India.  Some students collaborated during this choice-driven unit, while a few worked independently.
  • The summary/questions tasks for Rome could be done in the form of notes (Cornell Method), an infographic, or an evaluated group discussion

While some of the questions needed tweaking, many were excellent. Importantly, they provided a framework for students’ research of the culture they had chosen. Good questions encouraged higher order thinking from the onset, and helped them frame their work. Every two days or so, students would have an informal discussion to share their findings and the answers to their questions.

Here are a few of the questions that need revision and yet are compelling327122302_bbc4a3935b. It was really interesting to see how these questions (and others) were tweaked by students to help them guide their own learning:

  • Does the economy carry the fate of a civilization?
  • Can an empire ever be too big?
  • What impact does displaying laws publicly have on the way they are regarded by the people?
  • What impact does corruption have on a civilization/culture?




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