Asking the Right Questions

I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing as a stupid question. However, I do not believe that all questions are created equally. Different situations call for different types of questions. In order the get the most out of your questions it’s not only important to ask the right kind but to also frame your question effectively.

Dr. Linda Elder and Dr. Richard Paul make great distinctions between three types of questions:

Questions of Fact or Procedure

  • The answer is a matter of rule and requires evidence & reasoning
  • They have a correct answer
  • The purpose is to obtain/share knowledge

Questions of Judgment

  • These questions lend themselves to debate in order to identify best answer
  • The answer requires evidence & reasoning through multiple viewpoints
  • There isn’t one, correct answer. Instead there are better and worse answers.

Questions of Preference

  • The answer is a matter of preference and calls for subjectivity
  • The purpose is to share your opinion & preference

In order to get the most out of them we need to identify what we want to get out of your questions. Try to ask the right kind of questions. Never hesitate to ask questions for clarification, questions to probe purpose or assumptions or even questions about the question.

The added benefit is that questions are a great tool for critical thinking. They allow you to:

  • Distinguish fact from opinion
  • Consider the relevance
  • Seek alternative viewpoints
  • Be aware of persuasion techniques
  • Recognize biases
  • Weigh the data carefully
  • Ask others to critique

… yes, they are so important that I used the word “question” 17 times! :)

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Elizabeth Pauker-Silva

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