Daniel Wilson, director of Project Zero, is known to say, “learning is not about transmission but transformation.” Transmission: the act of moving a thing from one place to another. This works when we send an email or order a pizza to be delivered. But it doesn’t work so well when we teach. Trying to impart knowledge through a transmission model doesn't develop real student understanding. In fact, it might promote the idea that school is about memorizing what the teacher knows... not always the most engaging notion for a student. Sometimes, authentic learning is sacrificed due to a perceived lack of time to cover curriculum. But, we know, at best, the transmission model results in a temporary ability for students to regurgite information; there's no concrete transformation of understanding. So, how might we take Wilson’s maxim and shape it into something useable in the classroom?
Take a minute to read “In This Classroom, Knowledge is Overrated.” In it, we see that students operating in varied learning environments are finding great success. The reason? Questions. Not only are teachers leading with relevant questions, but students are encouraged to develop their own. Even small, focused research (CCSS ELA W.7) in which students create their own questions for inquiry recruits interest (UDL Guideline 7), heightens the salience of goals (UDL Guideline 8) and even opens methods for learning (Multiple Means of Representation).
If students don’t ask questions, they won’t get answers. Questions transform learning and their perceptions of the classroom.