Every Question Is a Lesson: Know What You Don’t Know

By  Layton Funk

Published on  July 27, 2020


We’ve all been told that “there’s no such thing as stupid questions,” and I will mostly agree with that! Questions that are asked in earnest in order to learn must always be addressed with descriptive professionalism and candor. The first step to making any progress (and the first step in the Scientific Method) is to ask a question like, “how does this work?” We have been asking ourselves those questions for millennia now, which is why humans have dominated the planet. Let’s not get carried away, though, because I’d just like to discuss how asking and answering questions is the best way to learn as a student.

Asking a Question

Nobody knows everything, so the best we can do is try to learn as much as we can. We ask questions so that we can learn. However, formulating the right question is more difficult than one might think! First, you have to know what you don’t know. Then, you must know how to ask a question that will illicit a proper response. For instance, if a student didn’t know what a math concept was called, it would be difficult for a teacher to explain it to them. After that, you need to listen attentively, ask follow-up questions, and even take some notes. By asking a question, you recognize what you don’t know and understand how to fill in that gap.

Answering a Question

The quickest way to explain how answering questions helps a student learn is to use an example. Students use flash cards and practice tests to study and learn material quickly and effectively. Answering a question requires one to access their memory, critical thinking skills, and logic to find the best response. Furthermore, justifying that response as the correct one takes some skill and knowledge. Sure, you can memorize facts and data points, but utilizing what you learn is the best way to solidify it all in your brain. This is related to how just using the slideshow presentation a teacher gives you or looking at a peer’s notes isn’t as helpful as taking notes yourself. The act of writing, repeating, and explaining something causes your brain to remember it better.

Efficient Use of Time

Lectures are incredibly helpful and can be essential in the development of one’s academic progression. However, they are just the foundation of knowledge that must be built upon. Finding resources such as practice questions, flash cards, or tutors will supplement and reinforce the base of your understanding. Beyond that, if you didn’t quite understand one part of a topic, specific questions will laser-focus that point without having to experience an entire lecture again. Don’t ever feel like you are lesser than someone else just because you’re not 100% clear on something. Simply know that is an opportunity to learn and grow. So, make sure you know what you don’t know and use that to your advantage!

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