________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 19 . . . . January 23, 2015


Q Tasks: How to Empower Students to Ask Questions and Care About the Answers. 2nd. Ed.

Carol Koechlin & Sandi Zwaan.
Markham, ON: Pembroke, 2014.
159 pp., trade pbk., $24.95.
ISBN 978-1-55138-301-9.

Subject Headings:
Critical thinking-Study and teaching (Elementary).
Critical thinking-Study and teaching (Secondary).
Questioning-Study and teaching.


Review by Reesa Cohen.

***˝ /4

This revised edition on inquiry-based learning follows exactly the same format as the original book written in 2006. Because the step-by-step approach of each chapter and, in fact, the same headings are once again used, at first glance, it is easy to wonder how different this new edition might be. The authors do indicate that much has changed in the way information is disseminated and gathered. In their preface, they explain the need to "refresh" the ideas of the original title due to the advancement in information technology and the impact of the new environment of connectivity. Koechlin and Zwaan point out that this revision gives the teacher some helpful ideas in the use of new technology in the framework of questioning with a focus on collaboration.

     There is little doubt in the authors' minds that the ability to use questions is still critical to everyday life and to learning.

It is the question that stirs the intellect, wakes up the neurons, and provides the stimulus for students to do something with raw numbers, facts, and data they have gathered or been presented with. The question can be prompted by both the curiosity of the student and the instructional intent of the educator. Both these sources of questions are necessary if students are to learn and ultimately reach real understanding of topics and issues.

     The key is to teach students to develop real questions for a variety of different tasks. To that end, Koechlin and Zwaan take the reader/educator through the basics of questioning and outline strategies that support the student as "questioner". Reading the "Introduction" to this title is advisable to the user because it does provide a road map on how to make the best use of the book. Particularly helpful are the explanations as to the headings: Task Clarification, Building Understanding, Demonstrating Understanding, Q + (which in this edition emphasizes collaboration and technology), Q Tips, which can lead the user to extensions and other resources for research and finally Q Task Quickies, to further extend the skill outlined in that chapter, through reproducible worksheets. Many of the suggestions outlined in Q+ and Q Tips have real-world applications and provide creative ideas for interactive learning. There are efforts here to provide a holistic approach with Q Tasks, engaging the learner in a multifaceted way, personally, socially, intellectually, and culturally.

     Every chapter promotes the power and importance of questions for the instructor. The focus is to place the educator firmly on ground that uses the best practices for creating a rich learning environment. For example, in Chapter 2 Understanding Questions, the user is guided by eight questions, such as: 'How can I help students observe different questions types?"; "How do I teach open and closed questions?"; "How do we help students understand that questions have different functions?" The remainder of the chapter sets out specific tasks related to developing those strategies.

     Chapter 4 leads to establishing techniques that relate to the world students live in and has some outstanding and timely applications. For example: "How can questioning help students become good digital citizens?"; "How can questioning help students take a stand on bullying?" The Q Tips in this section are particularly strong. There is a versatility to many of the added ideas and exercises, with a carryover to everyday life.

     Is there a lot to digest? Most definitely! This could be a course itself. It is also somewhat busy looking, (with a number of educational quotes thrown in here and there). At times, the book seems overwhelming and even burdensome with detail. But for educators looking for specific guidance on how to improve students’ awareness of the importance and effectiveness of asking questions, this title will help them to apply strategies in a multitude of ways and can be a wonderful tool in building a "culture of inquiry". Once again, as in the first edition, it would have been so helpful to have included some suggested grade or age level guidelines for the intended user. Some of the lessons and worksheets can be complex and intricate, while others are very simplistic. The understanding is that teachers can pick and choose what works best for them in a specific learning environment.

     It is obvious that great effort and research was carried out by the authors to achieve a comprehensive document that is useable as well as flexible. Many of the ideas and extensions incorporate the digital age in all aspects, with an emphasis on interactive learning, which will appeal to the connected student of today, and this edition does promote opportunities for collaboration, a quality prized by many of today's employers.

     Included is a list of resources and an index.


Reesa Cohen is a retired Instructor of Children’s Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

CM Home | Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - January 23, 2015 | Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive