It’s strange how we try to force students down certain tracks.

Obviously, you need to learn to count before calculus, but everything in between doesn’t need to be so linear.

I can imagine a biology classroom where the teacher just says, “Who has any biology-realted questions?”

Students will tell you exactly what they’re interested in, and what level of understanding they’re at.

Of course, students aren’t at the same level, but that’s why they can teach each other. Humans love sharing knowledge. And dumb questions strengthen everybody’s understanding. And dumb questions are often particularly difficult, because the fractal-nature of understanding.

“Welcome to physics. Does anybody have any questions?” “Why is the sky blue?” “Because of the wavelength of light!” “Yeah, but why does that mean it’s blue?” “Uhh…”

The best part about questions-first learning is that you can ask people to guess, which is essential! By asking people to guess and listen to their internal models, you can instantly find and fix their faulty intuitions.

“Welcome to physics. Does anybody have any questions?” “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do you think it’s blue?” “Maybe because oxygen is blue?” “Okay, give me second – okay, here’s a picture of a pure oxygen. Any blueness?” “Well maybe it only turns blue when you have a lot of it, like water?” …and so on.

TL;DR

Conversations are powerful.

Let the students lead.

Engage curiosity.