When students are aware that they do not understand a concept, the main impediment to developing an understanding is their willingness to ask questions of the instructor or of fellow students. When students think that they understand a concept, but really have some significant misconception lodged in their mental picture of the concept, they may not supplant this misconception for years, if ever. Both situations can be corrected if the students identify the need to ask questions, are brave enough to do so in the traditional academic settings, and if the answers adequately address the actual misunderstanding (which may be different from the question asked). These are many of the same issues faced in group, individual, or family psychotherapy, and many teaching tools can be adopted from this field. the therapist is challenged with the tasks of creating an environment which is supportive and where question-asking is safe, of helping clients to identify and grapple with issues which may be originally hidden from them, and of maintaining open, clear, and honest communication. to encourage productive questions, the classroom environment must be safe for risk-taking, "owned" by the students, and non-threatening. Examples of how to establish these traits are given. a few therapy concepts which will encourage productive communication in a classroom setting include installation of hope, universality, imparting information, imitative behavior, art therapy, role playing, reframing, use of paradox, use of the "miracle question," separating defense mechanisms from coping mechanisms, validation, productive use of silence, demonstrating respect, proper listening, empathy, demonstrating humanness, proper techniques for question-asking, removing authority as a defense, removing obstacles to communication, removing resistance. Examples of the use of each concept to encourage question-asking by students and to reveal misconceptions will be given.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

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Article - Conference proceedings

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Publication Date

01 Jan 2003