I am not a lawyer. At one point I thought I wanted to be one, and actually my first major in college was pre-law, but a stint as an intern for a defense attorney quashed that desire. Instead I went on to a Political Science degree and later became a teacher but as I reflect on my 15 years in the classroom and current work helping teachers and schools I've come to realize the importance of "thinking like a lawyer". While thinking about lawyers may conjure all kinds of connotations the core skill to focus on here involves the art of questioning.
Of course not all questioning is used to lead students in pursuit of productive struggle. As teachers we also want to use questions to engage students and formatively assess their progress and modeling the practice as a habit of mind shows students how to do so themselves. Formative assessment uncovers student progress so we can know how to respond in order to build deficiencies. This requires asking the right questions and as this (kind of cheesy) Mindtools video to the left notes, asking the wrong questions doesn't get us the information we need. Using methods like Socratic Seminar and Critical Friends Groups pushes students (and teachers) to learn how to do this and certainly highly evolved PBL classrooms have students constantly engaged in inquiry and questioning.
|Click for full cartoon|