Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How to Ask a Great Question to Get Students to Talk

The first article I ever published in a real magazine revealed the seven ways to ask a great question.  I used to be so good at asking questions!  I remember that article today as I stare out at a group of students who aren't talking.

They don't answer my questions, and suddenly I know the problem:  I'm not asking good questions.

I'm asking the worst questions.  

Closed questions seek one-word, obvious answers.  Insignificant questions don't relate to anything students consider important. Leading questions position the professor as a fisherman baiting students to tell him what he wants to hear. Vague questions nobody can understand.

What makes a great question?

I realize that I might ask how instead of what.  I venture asking why instead of where or who.  And then I understand something new.  If I ask from a place of authority instead of curiosity, the conversation stops.

I step back, frame a new question from my own curious heart, and all of a sudden, they won't stop talking.

I know it's true, as Parker Palmer states, that "we teach what we most need to learn."  If I forget this, then perhaps I should stop asking students questions. 

How have you experienced the power of a great question?


Tim Sanville said...

You're probably privy to this information anyways, but here's a quick link for self-discovered learning and asking good questions. 

Live with Flair said...

 Thank you, Tim!  Awesome resource.  Cru Press has such great stuff. 

Byran said...

Love this post. I'll keep it in mind when I'm trying to elicit responses and enthusiasm for probability distributions!