When you get into a class, the most obvious thing to expect is to find a teacher asking questions and giving content to their students, but what happens when you find that the students are in charge of asking the questions?
A teaching and learning method using the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) allows the learners to feed into their curiosity by asking relevant questions as guided by the teacher to achieve the set objectives for that particular lesson.
This method has been piloted for two years in ten schools in the Mwala area in Machakos County where over 60 teachers have been trained on how to use it in class under the supervision of lecturers from the South Eastern Kenya University (SEKU) with coordination from Kenya Connect, a non-governmental organisation based in the area.
According to one of the implementers from SEKU Prof Josphat Kimatu, this pilot study has been studied in other parts of the world including Europe and the United States and has enabled young students to become innovative and creative. “We don’t teach critical thinking as a subject in Kenya as it is in either Europe or US and we would want an inception of critical thinking in our society,” he says.
When students ask questions in a class, the teachers answer them in the context of their lesson so they pick their objectives and make a question focus to categorise the questions and allow the students to go into metacognition where they can think beyond the teachers.
“This is a pedagogical practice, an approach where learners search for knowledge through asking questions and through this, they solve their problems by thinking broadly,” says another implementer from SEKU Dr Mutuku Kasivu.
After the piloting of this new teaching and learning technique, the implementers intend to do an evaluation and recommend it to the Ministry of Education through the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) to be entrenched in the school system. This is because they believe that this will assist curriculum-based education to prosper from the traditional method where the teacher is the source of knowledge and make the learners partners in knowledge.
The Kenya Connect Executive Director James Musyoka says that their role has been to link the implementers with the teachers on the ground, and it is their joy knowing that they have empowered the teachers believing that it translates to empowering the students to be critical thinkers and become life-long learners.
“Our focus was to work with teachers to help students generate meaningful questions which can in turn spur their curiosity and make them creative and critical learners,” Musyoka says.
Pauline Mueni, a teacher who benefitted from this training is eager to see it in use. “I recommend that all teachers embrace it as it caters for learners with all kinds of abilities including the ones that have challenges in academics,” she says.
However, Jackie Gathu, a Counseling Psychologist says before any teacher can implement the technique, it is crucial to understand their students’ learning styles and tap into their strengths while empowering their weaknesses.
“I like the idea of students asking questions, unlike a learning scenario where the teachers do so because you get to gauge the student’s level of understanding,” she says. “In a class, you will find there are more outgoing students while others are quite shy and not very outspoken. The teacher needs to understand how to draw them out without making them feel like they are being put in the spotlight, hence balance is key.”