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What makes a good question?




Recently, our series of blog posts on teaching English for Academic Purposes has focused on the concept of a question-centered approach.

That is, an approach that uses thought-provoking questions as a framework for teaching critical thinking skills—as well as teaching language and skills strategies.

So far, Jennifer Bixby has deconstructed what a good thought-provoking question should do, and Joe McVeigh has offered some tips for integrating questions into classroom activities.

So, what kind of questions lead to critical thinking?

To demonstrate, we decided to test out 12 different questions by posing them to some of the world’s most esteemed scientists, anthropologists, geologists, mathematicians, psychologists, and philosophers.

We kick off by asking “Where do new ideas come from?”, a question that genius expert Andrew Robinson attempts to answer.

Then, every day for the next 10 days, we’ll ask a panel of academics a different question, each one taken from Q Skills for Success, the new course series from OUP.

Questions published so far are:

The aim of this exercise?

Well, it’s just a bit of fun, really. But we figured, the more interesting the question, the more interesting the dialog that is borne of it. And that’s true no matter whether you’re asking an Oxford professor or an English language learner at pre-intermediate level.

Remember, if any of these questions capture your imagination, feel free to voice your opinion in the comments. Or, why not assign it as a homework challenge for your students?

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