Asking Questions to Build Knowledge

How doe questions help build knowledge? Let's take an example. Here's a story from the New York Times:

Libyans Strangely Cut Short Their Strange Visit to Israel

Jerusalem, June 1--Muslim pilgrims from Libya suddenly cut short their visit here today after calling for the overthrow of the "Zionist leadership," the "liberation" of Jerusalem and the establishment of a "democratic" Palestinian state of Arabs and Jews.

Israeli officials, some of whom had hailed the visit as a portent of peace, were surprised and outraged by the remarks, made at a news conference. The strange collapse of an already strange pilgrimage quickly dampened speculation that the trip might promote ties with Libya after years of unbending hostility.

The pilgrims announced that they would depart on Wednesday, a day ahead of schedule, canceling planned visits to several Israeli cities.

The motives behind their abrupt departure remained unclear. They said they were leaving because they had completed their prayers, but their Israeli travel agent said they had decided to leave after Palestinians obstructed and harassed them today as they tried to visit Al Aksa Mosque.

Here are some questions I had after reading this article:

Did Libya really want to improve relations with Israel?

Was it Libya's intention all along to do what they did?

Is the PLO really annoyed at Libya?

What does this all have to do with the new Saudi Arabian viewpoint about wanting to make peace with Israel that I read about earlier?

If you were a teacher who wanted to teach me about the Middle East, you would now find a willing student, because I have been made curious. I am curious about the issues I have noticed, so I won't respond well to a lecture on whatever it is you wanted to say before I asked those questions. I asked those questions because my memory got confused when it tried to integrate the new story with my old beliefs. The answers to these questions are needed by my memory in order for me to remember the article above. I will not remember much more of this article besides the answers to these questions because the questions indicate what I had to think about and what I wanted to think about, in order to absorb the article into my memory. Learning depends on following one's own internal mental path in an idiosyncratic fashion.

Because questions kick off the processes of integration and generalization, and therefore ultimately have an impact on the issue of long-term retention of information, it is important to understand what conditions lead us to ask questions. It is important to recognize that it is internally generated questions that drive memory and hence drive learning. Once a question has been generated by memory, memory is set to learn since it knows where to place any answer it finds. But memory is obsessive enough to fail to pay attention to information provided that is not an answer to any question it may have, thus making learning of information it is not seeking fairly difficult.

Next Story Questions Lead to Answers

Outline Where am I in the content of the book?

What Is Next

What Led To This?

What Should Be Avoided?

Give Me Details

Give Me Background

Start Over Who Built Engines? Contact EFE Team ILS