learning to question LO2976

Bonnie Morihara (moriharb@ucs.orst.edu)
Thu, 28 Sep 1995 16:26:28 -0700 (PDT)

In Re: Kids on Teamwork LO2961, Marilyn Darling says:

>What a difference between the way we use questions in the corporate
setting and the way a child uses questions to learn.

<Some good examples snipped here.>

>What strikes me is that there is very little difference between these
sets of questions. Each asks simple, fundamental things. But in the
business setting, it seems to be hard to ask such fundamental questions.
Why is this so? Perhaps people's theories and assumptions form a sort of
territory that fundamental questions challenge.


Marilyn's examples contrast questions asked in political environments
with those asked out of sheer wonder. The fundamental, naive questions
that children ask often seek to understand the beginnings and endings of
things, and the relationships between new and "known" objects or ideas.
This type of question often challenges assumptions because children don't
yet know or accept the assumptions of adults; they haven't yet been fully
socialized into "the way things are."

The willingness to questions assumptions and to acknowledge the origins
of beliefs about the "proper ways of doing things" is, I believe, key to
transformational learning for both individuals and organizations. Of
course, experienced members of any organization or society have learned
more effective, more efficient, or merely preferred ways of thinking and
acting. Subjecting every idea or process to fundamental questioning may
feel as tiresome and time-wasting to an "old-hand" as children's queries
appear to a question-weary parent.

It takes trust and genuine regard for others to question assumptions in
an open fashion. It also requires deep reflection and patience to
continue uncovering rather than being content to accept the first
plausible explanation. Questioning organizational or societal
assumptions is very political. (See Freire, P. _Pedagogy of the
Oppressed_) Searching for the root assumptions and what types of
behavior, outcomes or people they support--and which people, behaviors,
and possible alternatives are ignored or devalued--is extremely difficult.
Being willing to share power or support change in an organization that
has rewarded us for playing by the rules is even more challenging!

But if we wish to encourage meaningful learning and growth, we need to
develop and practice the habit of asking the fundamental questions -- in
our organizations, in our society, with our children, and as individuals.

Bonnie Morihara, PhD student, Oregon State University