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LuisanaT's picture

An informed inquirer, what any student should aspire to become

There is no step-by-step formula informing a teacher on how to go about evaluating the growth in inquiry skills especially when taking into consideration the diversity, neurodiversity and otherwise, found in each individual. This is a definite problem we face when deconstructing the ideas of schooling and what one is expected to do after obtaining a certain level of education.


Let us take a look at Zen Buddhism as it offers great insight on a non-conventional approach to the student-teacher relationship. Here, the teacher provides the student with a difficult question such as “What sound does a open handed clap make?” The student leaves to toss around potential ideas in their mind and returns confidently with an answer for the teacher. Upon hearing the answer, the teacher explains to the student why it is that that particular answer cannot be correct. Off again goes the student to think about another answer for this enigma only be rejected logically and sensibly by the teacher’s greater knowledge and world experience. This little interplay continues until the student presents an answer the teacher’s wisdom cannot refute. The teacher’s responds instead with another question just as inexplicable as the last, allowing this process to continue in a cyclic manner until the teacher has offered all of the questions they themselves cannot completely answer and the student has answered all of those questions in a way that currently cannot be proven wrong. At this point, the teacher’s final reply to the student’s irrefutable response is congratulation on graduating.


This relationship clearly emphasizes inquiry skill development through attempts of getting matters of life less wrong. What this story also highlights is comfort found even while getting some thing wrong, the reality of unanswerable questions, and, just as, if not more importantly, the student’s continued participation despite this fact. For with each successive question, the student is contemplating potential answers with more awareness and inquiry than the last.


This ideal captivation in the student supports the idea of allowing students to learn about X, Y, and Z until they are bored with it. One can easily understand the great difference found when students are learning for fun and when they aren’t-it is the reason why people pick up hobbies or are naturally experts in certain areas of life. Now if the student happens to already know all there is to/they would want to know about X, it is the teacher’s job to find a variety of ways to resuscitate their motivations and continue their educational progression, such as with another mind boggling question like in the story. It is incredibly crucial that the teacher’s are conscious of the fact that that which interests them in that particular area of study does not have to be the same or the only thing student’s will find captivating enough to learn about. This will force teachers to put more focus on what it is all sorts of student’s would find most appealing and stimulating for them to learn. If all else fails, it is then the school’s job to reposition the students to where s/he will be introduced to concepts Y and Z, which they have not yet dealt with/finished exploring.

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