When teachers are developing lesson plans it is very important
to think about what kind of activity will encourage students to
think of numerous possible solutions or ways to solve a problem
instead of just one correct method or answer. Ross (2000) suggests
that "Prescriptive science activities confine the breadth and
intensity of a student's inquiry. Many students actively rebel when
placed in a situation in which there is only one option." Instead
of giving step-by-step activities in the classroom, and setting
limitations to what the students can investigate during the activities,
students should be instructed to explore as much as possible and
not to worry about using a certain method or coming up with a predetermined
answer. When teachers communicate an uncertainty about the outcome
will be of the activity, students feel more ownership of the problem,
work harder and really feel like they are discovering something.
In order for students to learn that there is not always one right
answer teachers must consciously work at not just feeding them with
answers. Some teachers too often simply respond to the students
with answers, instead of questioning the students and encouraging
them to think through all the possibilities to the answer. Even
after the students have explored all the possibilities and given
their answer, teachers need to question them and have them explain
what they found out. Hewson's (2000) research says, "Conceptual
understanding requires a metacognitive experience, where students
discuss "how they know" and "why they know."
Hands-on activities, in and of themselves, do not guarantee student
As teachers question their students about their ideas, teachers
need to allow an appropriate amount of time for students to critically
think about what they want to say. "Information processing
involves multiple cognitive tasks that take time. Students must
have uninterrupted periods of time to process information, reflect
on what has been said, observed, or done; and consider what their
personal responses will be" (Robert, 2000).
When teachers use wait-time between their questioning students
will see that sometimes many explanations are possible for just
one question. Teachers should avoid asking questions that can be
answered with a simple "yes" or "no." This does
not encourage students to think critically about the question. It
also models that there was just one possible answer to the question.
Students will understand that there are many ways to think of one
idea when teachers ask open-ended and extended-answer questions.
After the teacher asks the question there should be time given to
the students to think of their response. Even after they respond
the first time the teacher should try to give more wait-time and
also ask the students to explain their response. Teachers should
constantly be asking their students why-questions so that it encourages
the students to think more deeply about their responses.
When students understand that there will not always be one right
answer they will become better critical thinkers and this kind of
thinking will lend itself to all other subject areas. This is a
skill that the students will hopefully use throughout their life.