How to Ask Good Questions for Learning and Development

A major mistake we teachers make is believing that if our learners are answering questions then they are learning. We even get so desperate for the tiniest sign of life that we’ll ask almost anything that might elicit some kind of a response. Unfortunately, when we do that, both the questions and their responses usually represent little, if any, mental exercise.

Good questions teach.
Good questions require effort.
Good questions are emotionally relevant.

Here are a few question skills worth developing:

Sketch271233125

Ask a Good Question

Then let your learners know that you want them to share the second or third thing that comes to mind, not the first.

The first few times you do this, you might get a few sideways looks but what it does is lets learners know that you’re not looking for the first wackadoo answer that popped into their head. Those usually aren’t the droids you’re looking for anyway. Instead, you’re telling them you actually do want them to think about what you just asked them…like, for real!Sketch271232025

Ask Questions that Invite Learners to Look at Things from a Different Angle or Viewpoint

Sometimes you have to spoon feed that alternate perspective but when they finally consider it, learners will often see new ways they can apply what they’ve learned. A few good starts might be:

  • What would that look like if you [insert scenario]…?
  • What if these roles were reversed?
  • If you replace [thing] with [thing] instead, what would that do?

Sketch271232510

Ask Open-Ended Questions for More Discussion

Avoid yes/no questions like a tipped over port-a-potty.

Nothing says “This class stinks!” like a bunch of uninspired and uninspiring yes/no questions. You might as well just tell your learners that you’re completely disinterested in what they really think or know. Just in case you accidentally rattle one of these ones off (hey, it happens) at least follow it up with a “Why?” to get the brains back in work mode.

Now, this last one isn’t exactly scientific but it rings true for us virtually every time.Sketch271232659

Create the Perfect Question as a Teacher

We know we have a good question when we’re excited to answer it ourselves.
Maybe we’re just a couple of question nerds…yeah, we kind of are. But this just comes down to putting yourself in the place of the learner. Would I want to answer that question? What would that question make me think about? What would my answer actually be?

Lystnr is a platform to make a teacher’s life easier by enhancing quality, open communication with students through technology.

What questions do you ask to inspire real critical thought? Sound off in the comments below!

Author: Shawn Jensen

I'm a trainer, a teacher, a coach, an artist, a Lego enthusiast, a wanna-be guitarist and I love being part of learning.

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