Learn like a 3 year old!
By the age of 3, the average child has reached cognitive milestones such as correctly naming colors, understanding the concept of counting, remembering parts of a story and every parent’s favorite milestone… Questions! “Why is the sky blue? Why is water wet? Why are you so old?”
Asking questions is a normal developmental milestone with preschool kids asking an average of 100+ questions a day. When a child doesn’t understand something, they are quick to ask a question and are equally as quick to ask follow-up questions to their questions. This is how children learn.
I’ve recently come to the conclusion that the average 3 year old plays a more active role in learning than the average young adult. Over the past few years, I’ve seen a decline in class participation among students and fewer questions being asked. The questions that are being asked are rarely focused on the “why”, which leads to truly understanding and being able to problem solve in the future. Instead, the average student simply wants to be given steps to follow to complete the task at hand.
This observation isn’t limited to the classroom, as I’ve seen this countless times in online forums. It’s as if the average person has lost their motivation and curiosity and would prefer the “cliff notes” or “cheat codes” for every obstacle that comes their way. Although it is true for some, I have to believe that the average student isn’t lazy, and truly wants to learn. So if it isn’t laziness or apathy, why aren’t students asking enough questions?
Has the average person been shamed for their curiosity? Is there a general fear people have to asking questions? From talking to hundreds of students over the last couple of years about this concern, I believe the answer to be yes to both questions. Whether it was an annoyed parent or a past teacher trying to simply get through their lesson plan for the day, the average student is afraid to ask questions in fear of looking “stupid” or “slowing down the class”. They feel that they are the only ones not “getting” the material and don’t’ want to be a burden to others.
So how do we fix this problem?
Simply ask more questions. Who cares if people get annoyed with your inquiries? Find that burning curiosity you had when you were 3 and become more active in conversations, lectures or workshops. Don’t stop until you truly understand the who, what when, where, how and most importantly… the why. Teachers can give regular reminders to their students to ask more questions and find ways to reward and encourage students that do ask questions. Students can step outside of their comfort zone and ask more questions. Most importantly, never leave a conversation/lecture with unanswered questions.
I believe that curiosity is key to creative problem solving, creativity in general and success. If we don’t explore and raise questions, we won’t reach an understanding of any given subject matter. So dig deep, find that 3 year old you, that carried no shame and an endless curiosity. Take a nap, have a small snack and get to back learning.