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How can we get students to develop independence in their learning?  Look no further than the questions we ask. 

What is the difference between asking students What are you doing?” and “What are you learning?”  The difference is in the answer. 



What are you doing?”

 Teacher:  What are you doing? 

 Student: “I’m filling in the blanks. “

 Teacher:  What are you doing?”

Student:   “I’m answering the reading comprehension exercises.”


What are you learning? 

Teacher:  “What are you learning?”

Student: “I’m learning how to write these verbs in the simple past.”


Teacher:  “What are you learning?”

Student:  “I’m learning about the weather and temperatures.”


 This observation was inspired by an article by Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher  called Purpose: The Foundation for High-Quality Teaching.  When classroom observers ask K-12 students What are you doing? they put the focus on the tasks students are asked to complete. When they ask, What are you learning? students focus on the deeper purpose and the enduring understandings of the lesson.  (Link:  http://www.principals.org/Content.aspx?topic=Purpose_The_Foundation_for_High_Quality_Teaching