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?