In a learning environment, like OCVC, questions are vital. Lecturers need to ask the right questions which allow their students to express their ideas. Students can demonstrate their abilities or make an impression with a good question. A question can be a beginning. Here are some suggestions of what can make good ones.
1. Good questions need inspiration. The good question might not be the first one that comes to you, or the one that sounds obvious to you. Be creative. Paint pictures with a question. Open doors with what you ask.
2. Answering questions helps you ask questions. Be willing to be questioned yourself. Be humble enough when they find a question that asks something of your arguments. The more you open yourself up, the better you’ll be at asking questions.
3. Know when to be open and when to be closed. The difference between an open question and a closed question is vast. Closed questions provide quick information and can shut a conversation down. A closed question has a limited set of answers – often yes or no. It gains information and does so fast. An open question on the other hand can keep a conversation going – it can draw a person out of themselves. How did it make you feel? What are your reflections on that experience? These questions create new questions and bring out those who are willing to speak.
4. Think about your audience. Frame your questions in a way which understands those listening. That doesn’t always mean it’s in their language. Sometimes a question might want to seek out whether a person understands something – it may in itself be requesting a level of knowledge. But good questions will always understand those who they are aimed at. How might this person respond? What might they understand by the question? What might it do to the conversation that follows?
5. Don’t be afraid to ask why – the greatest follow up. If your question is answered then press with a follow-up question – often asking why is effective here. If a student has an opinion then ask why. If a lecturer is making an assumption or favouring a writer then ask why. Why might be the question of children but sometimes it can be the most penetrative.
Sometimes we feel like the most important thing is to get our ideas across. Former US President Reagan once began a press conference by saying “before I refuse to answer your questions, I have an opening statement.” It’s easy to understand how he felt.
But for the student keen to impress a great question can make quite an impression. If you’re looking to make an impact think about what you’re going to say, think about great phrases to include, consider what impact the question might have – and again don’t be afraid of the simple follow up. Asking a question has the power to make you look very smart.