Teaching Students How To Ask Philosophical Questions


“Question asking… is a skill all-too-often undervalued in philosophy pedagogy and philosophy pedagogy research”

So writes Stephen Bloch-Schulman (Elon) in a recent post at the Blog of the American Philosophical Association, in which he reports on video-conference he held on the teaching of philosophical question-asking.

Observations from the video-conference include:

  • “How important teaching a single distinction is and how it can, if infused into subsequent dialogue, lead to sharper questions.”
  • “Categorizing types of questions is a useful way to help students get a handle on what can feel to them like an amorphous knack that some people have and others lack”
  • “One particularly useful strategy asked students to think from others’ perspectives to try to voice what others might ask in a particular circumstance.”

Professor Bloch-Schulman writes that, “In the end, there was little consensus about whether and to what extent we can teach, and ought to teach and grade, question-asking as a skill.”

Given the centrality of question-asking to philosophy, the relative neglect of this subject in the study of philosophical teaching is surprising. It would be useful to hear from those who have experience with or thoughts about teaching students to ask philosophical questions. What makes for a better or worse philosophical question and how do you convey this to your students? What assignments or exercises do you have students do in order to improve their question-asking skills? Are there particular readings you have found useful for prompting students to ask better questions?

Image: photos of “Question Mark” by Kumi Yamashita


Related: “The Intellectual Achievement of Creating Questions

 

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