Concordia Shanghai flew in U.S. math man, Steve Leinwand. Steve spent a week working with our students, teachers, and administrators. While here,

**he validated two of my core educational philosophies**. The first, that powerful professional learning takes place when we**observe our colleagues in action**(peer observations). Read more here about how Steve modeled PD.
The second philosophy connection---the importance of

**asking students powerful questions**. I have this poster on my wall as a daily reminder to pause and ask questions that promote thinking.
I learned that Steve is a master at asking “Why?” “How do you know?” type questions. It seemed like he responded with a “Why?” “How do you know?” question 95% of the time.

For example:

Steve: “What is the most efficient way to determine the area of this rectangle?”

Student: “Multiply the base by the height.”

Steve: “Why?”

*Notice, Steve did not confirm that the student had given him a right answer to his question. He asked, “Why?” Steve did not even give the student a non-verbal cue. When the student responded, Steve neutrally replied with a question to dig deeper into the student’s thinking.*
As teachers,

**we are natural question askers**. However, from my own teaching experience,**I tend to be more focused on the right answer, and less focused on the thinking behind getting that right (or wrong) answer****.**
"Which fraction is greater, 2/4 or 5/8?" With the pace of the lesson I may be content with students simply feeding me the correct answer. I quickly move on to the next question. "Which fraction is greater, 1/3 or 3/6?" The “give-us-the-right-answer” cycle continues.

**By the end of the lesson every student is able to compare fractions, but very few students can explain their thinking and reasoning behind the answers**, let alone teach fraction comparison to other students.
If we want students to think, we must

**give students opportunities to practice their thinking. How? By asking simple, yet powerful, questions**.
As an aside, it was interesting to observe Steve interact with my own two kids, a four and a six year old, in a social, non-academic setting. He asked them question, after question, after question. Not silly lower level yes/no questions, but “let-me-get-you-thinking” questions. Dad chirps, “Guys, can you tell that Uncle Steve loves asking great questions?” My kids nod and smile.

Thanks for great learning and growing, Steve. Here’s to a great week fellow educators. A week filled with asking students “Why?” "How do you know?”

With something to think about, this is Mr. Russell.