The best answer

The internet has totally changed the way that we access facts, and the speed at which we can find them. It’s not even a challenge! Google can often even give the answer without even having to click onto another website!

At a recent PYP workshop, Steven Allan suggested trying a new approach. Instead of trying to find the quickest answer, try to prepare the best answer. The best answer requires students to read from a variety of different sources, think critically about them, and to summarise their findings. In the example above, the quick answer would be ‘Paris’, but students aiming for the best answer might consider why it was chosen as the capital city, when it was chosen, how many people live there, its geographical location, etc.

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 12.29.18 PM.pngI tried this approach for the first time when I asked the students: what does introvert mean? Google’s quick answer (left) was, in fact, one that I disagree with. After students read around further, they also questioned what Google had originally stated. There is a difference between an introverted person and a shy person (it’s possible to be a confident introvert or a shy extrovert). Students found out that this is a common misconception. By researching further, students looked beyond this flawed definition and prepared answers which included better definitions, skills generally associated with introversion, definitions of extroverts and ambiverts, what fraction of people are believed to be introverts, etc.

In another example, students questioned why America dropped an atomic bomb over Nagasaki in 1945, three days after the one that devastated Hiroshima. Some of them could speculate already and these ideas were shared, but they were then encouraged to prepare the best answer. Below is one example. This student went from “It’s because Japan hadn’t surrendered” to this:

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 12.49.19 PM

A key point about this approach is that students are not finding answers. Instead, they are using information to generate their own. This requires critical thinking and takes their research skills to the next level.

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