Friday Gem #15 – big questions with Oxplore

Autumn Focus: Questioning

Teaching and learning Gem #15 – big questions with Oxplore


This Friday Gem comes from Monique Nullens, who recommends this brilliant (and snazzy) website – The site is created by Oxford University and offers approaches to challenges and questions underpinned by the latest thinking and research.

  • It poses a plethora of big questions on socio/political/economic/scientific/cultural issues.
  • They are thorny and provoking.
  • For example, ‘Does fake news matter?’, ‘Are humans more important than plants?’, ‘Are Explosions always destructive?’, ‘Would it be better if we all spoke the same language?’
  • Importantly, the website is beautifully crafted, and the big questions are springboards to an astonishing range of engaging articles, videos, quotes, facts etc.

Check out the website…it will be a genuinely fascinating experience.


Asking big, open questions in class is effective because:

  • With such big questions, there are no right answers. It discourages perfectionism and ‘learning for the test’.
  • It helps students realise that they don’t have to get everything right first time. In fact, in ‘big discussions’, students can get things wrong, reassess and change direction. That’s part of the fun and the freedom of these types of discussions.
  • It encourages students to play around with ideas and to throw things into the discussion to see where they lead. You could contribute an idea big or small.
  • It encourages higher order, critical thinking that transcends subjects. It draws concepts/knowledge from across a spectrum of disciplines. These discussions epitomise our STEAM+.
  • To quote Dan Addis in his recent WimTeach article on scholarship: “we can encourage students to attack a problem from multiple angles, playing with the blurred lines between the subjects, and discovering links that were hidden to them before. Quite apart from the fact that this lateral thinking is a skill that will benefit them in whatever avenue they wish to pursue in later life, it is also fun and rewarding.” 

    Try out a ‘no right answer’ big question as a starter to set the tone for the sort of experimental engagement you’d like from students for the rest of the lesson.