Fertile questions explained

Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wsYRLbQ_es&feature=youtu.be

The characteristics of fertile questions and how teachers might use them in the classroom.


Transcript

Visual

Indira Neville sitting on a sofa at the Auckland Services to Schools Centre, with books and shelves in the background.

Text appears:

Indira Neville
Services to Schools
National Library of New Zealand
Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa

Audio

My name's Indira Neville. I'm a Principal Advisor at Services to Schools at the National Library and today I'm going to be talking about fertile questions.


Visual

Title: Fertile Questions. Subtitle: Developed in 2005 by Yoram Harpaz and Adam Lefstein

Audio

Fertile questions are a type of question that were developed in 2005 by Yoram Harpaz and Adam Lefstein. They are very rich and complex and they're great for inquiry.


Visual

Photo of a medal: One side reads 'Frances Parker' and the other side reads 'Hunger Strike.' The medal's clasp is decorated with a tricolour cloth featuring purple, white, and green.

Audio

This is the Women's Social and Political Union Medal for Valour.


Visual

Black-and-white photo of suffragette, Frances Parker. In the photo, she is being escorted by policemen.

Audio

It was awarded to prominent suffragette, Frances Parker.


Visual

Frances Parker's medal is displayed in an ornate green case. Beside the photo is the text: 'How was the movement to win voting like a battle?' 

New text appears: 'Rich — It requires grappling with content and cannot be answered without research (often requiring sub-questions).'

Audio

A fertile question that relates to this medal is: 'How was the movement to win voting like a battle?' 

If we break this question down into its fertile question components, we can see that first of all it's 'rich' so it requires understanding what 'movement to win voting' means and what that involved. It requires understanding what a battle is and requires understanding what medals are and why they're given. So all of these things need to be understood, researched before any answer can be formulated.


Visual

New text appears: 'Undermining — It undermines the learner's assumptions and/or casts doubt on the self-evident or commonsensical.'

Audio

The question is 'undermining'. The question tells us that not everyone has always been able to vote which might be a surprise for some learners. Voting is not just an inevitable right for everyone.


Visual

New text appears: 'Open — It has no one definitive answer but several (possibly competing) answers.'

Audio

The question is 'open', so we need to think about the different ways that suffrage was like a battle — psychological, physical, the idea of conflict and its myriad of forms. Also, there's the possibility that learners might decide after researching 'it wasn't like a battle,' at least not in New Zealand.


Visual

New text appears: 'Practical — It is researchable within the life and world of the learner.'

Audio

The question is 'practical' so you can research it, especially via online culture and heritage collections. For example, the He Tohu support material and exhibition etc.


Visual

New text appears: 'Charged — It has an ethical dimension and emotional, social or political implications.'

Audio

It's 'charged' and might raise things like whether or not what happened to the suffragettes was fair. 'Why did the suffragettes feel so passionately?' ... 'How does the fight for fundamental rights make the learner feel?'


Visual

New text appears: 'Connected — It is relevant to the life of the learner and/or a discipline.'

Audio

And finally, it's 'connected' so it's part of the history of Aotearoa New Zealand.


Visual

A photo of a 2 women and a school-age girl using an interactive display at the He Tohu exhibition space in Wellington.

Audio

The learners are likely to have family members who were somehow involved in the fight for suffrage.


Visual

3 overlapping images: 

  • one of the Women's Suffrage Petition scrolls housed in their display case at the He Tohu exhibition
  • one showing a zoomed-in cluster of signatures from the petition.
  • one of the Suffrage 125 white flower, with the words 'Suffrage 125 Whakatū Wāhine'.

Audio

And it's also particularly relevant this year as it's the 125th anniversary of suffrage in New Zealand.


Visual

Indira Neville on the sofa.

Audio

Fertile questions are, by their nature, complicated, so they have all of those components that we've just talked about so they can take a long time to find answers to and to explore and I think it's really important to understand that the research part of the questions, in my mind anyway, is not about the students going off with their question and looking in books or looking on the internet. That requires some really effective teaching, scaffolding activities: doing things, breaking things down together.


Visual

Frances Parker's medal. Alongside the photo are questions:

  • 'How was the movement to win voting like a battle?'
  • 'Do medals reflect or create mana?'
  • 'What are medals for?'
  • 'What is conflict good for?'

Audio

So it's research in a very kind of active, scaffolded kind of way because the questions are so complicated, you're not going to find the answer to them by Googling them and I think that's a really important point to make.


Visual

Indira Neville on the sofa.

Audio

Another important point to make is that if you're a very skilful teacher and you have 15 minutes, you might be able to sit down at the end of the day and just have a chat about a fertile question. But... mostly that is probably not going to happen. If you just ask these kinds of questions cold, you'll probably just get a lot of quizzical looks and ... confusion because they're complicated ...


Visual

Close-up shot of the front side of Frances Parker's medal, followed by a close-up shot of the medal in its display case.

Audio

.. .and they need to be scaffolded and students need to have a whole lot of content knowledge before they can really begin to discuss the issues at hand.


Visual

Indira Neville on the sofa.

Audio

So, don't think that they're a kind of a quick fix in your classroom. They do require some time and effort. But that's amazing. That's what makes them so satisfying and that's what makes, you know, the inquiry process associated with them so rich and pedagogically sound and amazing for the learners.


Visual

4 consecutive photos related to NZ women's suffrage: 

  • one in black-and-white showing 3 women cleaning bicycles
  • another in black-and-white showing a small group of women riding bicycles on a dirt country road
  • a third black-and-white photo shows an 1890s New Zealand suffrage march
  • the final photo is in colour and shows women holding a protest sign during a Wellington women's march in January 2017 — the sign reads 'Kate Sheppard sent me.'

Audio

With suffrage, you could argue that the thing that is important is not women fighting for the right to vote. It's people feeling passionate about a cause and doing something regardless of what the cause is. And so, you know, a student who started off looking at suffrage ...


Visual

Indira Neville on the sofa.

Audio

.... but ends up writing to their MP about the amount of plastic that's in their local creek — totally, totally valid. Fertile questions are complex and challenging, but those are the very things that make them so rich and worthwhile in the classroom. I really hope you give them a go.


Visual

Video and photo credits:

Women's Social and Political Union Medal for Valour, ca 1914 by Toye & Co. Ref: GH024772 Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Frances Parker being escorted from Ayr Sheriff Court, 1914. Photographer unknown. Ref: AAA00178 National Records of Scotland. Crown copyright. Open Government License v3.0.

Two women and school-age girl using interactive display at the He Tohu exhibition, 2017 by Mark Beatty. National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa. CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ.

1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition in the document room by Mark Beatty. National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa. CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ.

Page from the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition. Ref: LE1 1893/7a Archives New Zealand.

Suffrage 125 symbol. Copyright Ministry for Women.

Three women cleaning their bicycles, ca 1900. Photographer unknown. Ref: 1365-16 Auckland Library Heritage Collections.

Members of the Griffiths family on bicycles, ca 1899 by Frank J Denton. Ref: 1/1-021086-G Alexander Turnbull Library.

Suffragettes in London with a New Zealand banner, 1910. Photographer unknown. Ref: PH-CNEG-C11446 Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Women's March, Wellington, 2017 by Dylan Owen. Owen. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

www.natlib.govt.nz/schools/teaching-and-learning-resources

Video ends.