We know the fact that asking questions is very critical, yet this reality is often misunderstood and disregarded. It is perfectly normal to be inquisitive. In fact, this behavior even helps a person in learning the things that should be grasped. It also makes us understand why we do the things we do everyday and lead us to knowing what is right and what is wrong.
However, questions have to be well-constructed and asked properly. Whenever our questions are weak and poorly created, the chances of getting the information that we want are slim since the questions may be left unanswered. Any need for clarification may not be attended to.
Sometimes, we ask questions without considering its importance and relevance. This may end up being annoying or irritating to others. So, in all walks and aspects of life, asking better questions is very crucial in communication.
Asking Better Questions in Class
In a classroom setting, one technique that an instructor can conduct for a comprehension check or understanding of the discussion is to ask questions before wrapping up the lesson. It can be a good gauge of the students’ knowledge and learning of the subject matter and a test whether the participants listened and paid attention during class discussion.
In asking better questions to the class, the instructor must reflect on the need to ask questions. Being one of the basic tools of teaching, it should be intuitive. Teachers must asses the kinds of questions asked to the students.
Another tip in asking better questions in class is to challenge the students on how much understanding they have gained by asking provocative and open-ended questions. Questions that require a simple recall of the terms is simply a measure of what they already know or can do. These are called reproductive questions.
Although it tests factual knowledge, it does not really stimulate new learning. A better way to do it is to use productive questions where students are required to explain in their own understanding and personal viewpoint what they learned from the discussion.
Instructors must not bombard the class with too many questions especially if the questions themselves do not really motivate critical thinking. To be more effective in the questioning approach, applying the concept on the level of questions from Bloom’s taxonomy is very helpful.
In comparison with closed ended questions, open ended questions are far better and elicit more opinions. For example, asking the class “Is the world round?” would gather varying responses of “Yes, I think so.” or “No, not really.” But changing it to “Why do scientists say that the world is round?” would gather numerous responses and encourage thinking.
Constructing Better Questions in the Workplace
Managers must consider the kinds of questions to ask their subordinates. Questions that focus on the employee’s weaknesses and failures decrease motivation. Instead, rephrase questions in a way that will challenge them to think of ways to improve themselves.
An example of a negative sounding question would be “Why is this project delayed?” Ask instead, “What are your challenges on this project?”
Another example is “Why can you not change your work attitude?” which adds to the negative feeling. A better way of asking it is “What can the management do to help you become a better employee?”
Although leading questions are effective in sales, it may not always be the case in a typical workplace setting. It somehow forces or compels an employee to agree to something that is not even worth agreeing for. For instance, “You did things on purpose, did you not?” may trigger the person asked to become defensive and would possibly argue over it.
Closed ended questions can be effectively used to close a meeting or a work conversation. But a rapid sequence of these questions will make a person feel interrogated.
Keys to Asking Better Questions
So what do we get out of asking better questions? For one, it creates clarity on the part of the person being asked as well as on the part of the questioner since the answers are clearer and easily understandable.
It strengthens relationships because it minimizes possible arguments and misinterpretations. Also, with better questions we are able to think more critically and analytically. It paves the way for breakthrough ideas and it challenges assumptions.