Kant declared false the commonplace saying “That may be true in theory, but it won’t work in practice.” He acknowledged that there might be difficulties in application, but he said that if a proposition is true in theory, it must work in practice. What about the proposition “If teachers don’t ask questions, students will ask more and better ones”? A preponderance of practical and empirical evidence shows that teacher questions suppress student questions (see the Dillon reference). Thus we have every reason to believe that if you want students to develop, ask, and attempt to answer their own questions, we have to quit asking the kinds of questions teachers typically ask.
There is a landfill of studies—more than 3,000 articles and 600 books. If you Google "learning styles" you will get 9.7 million hits in 0.16 seconds. "Learning styles workshops" produces 7.8 million hits and even “critiques of learning styles” garners 460,000 items. By the numbers of instruments, handbooks, and workshops advertised online, learning styles must be a sizable industry. But after diving into the pile, my mind was full of grit and cynicism. A zealous quest has created claims and theories so bad they aren’t even wrong. There had to be something useful in all this effort or despair would settle over me like so much dust.
"So, what does that mean—'I need to provide more scaffolding'?" a teacher asked, with frustration in his voice. He was just back from a peer review debrief. "Maybe that's more a suggestion than a criticism," I offered. "Okay, but what do I do to provide more scaffolding?" he asked.
The Socratic questioning strategy described in the article appealed to me. I could see how it would cut down on quizzes, grading, and the whole sad enterprise of writing multiple- guess questions that dulled students’ thinking. I made some adaptations and expectantly implemented it in my introduction to political theory course. Those expectations quickly dissolved. At her desk, one of my best students...