Monday, January 20, 2020

Asking the Right Questions

In Nothing is one thing from Seth Godin's Blog, Seth Godin talks about getting one-word answers for questions and how this can be annoying and frustrating.

When my nephew was younger, his mom would put him on the phone with me and it was a tough conversation. Any question I asked, he answered with one or two words and never asked a question back. It is really hard to have a conversation like this because it takes both parties participating in order to have a meaningful conversation. This was very frustrating for me because I loved my nephew and I wanted to know more about what was going on in his life.

Then I realized I hadn’t been asking the right questions. I needed to stop asking questions that enabled only one-word answers. I needed to dig deeper. Maybe he saw these shallow questions as false interest in him.

So before the calls, I started to think about how I would ask him questions. Instead of asking how things were going and expecting the answer of “fine,” I asked him to tell me what was the best thing that happened to him this week. Then I would ask him to tell me what was the worst thing that happened to him this week. I would also ask him if money was no object, what would he wish right now. Sometimes this opened up to longer conversations and more questions for clarification. Once I started asking the right questions, I felt like we had a better connection.

This works with my students also. I need to avoid questions that allow for the one-word answer. Instead of asking, “Do you understand me?”, I need to ask, “What did I ask you to do?” Instead of just accepting an answer that can be memorized and repeated, I need to ask them why that is the answer. I might ask them how they got that answer. These kinds of answers require more thinking. It allows me to assess for understanding better.

I realize now that just getting the correct answers isn’t always the best thing. I need to make sure that I’m asking the right questions.

What kinds of questions work best for you and your students? Please share.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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