The Value of Asking Questions

One thing I’ve learned from being a remote employee is to never take your colleagues for granted. It’s a great feeling to get together and catch up. Even better is that that the amount of useful information they share! It’s always great to share things we’re hearing about critical thinking but to do it in person gets the creative juices flowing.
Last night, Heather Ishikawa reflected on her recent experience at the Critical Thinking Institute. One of the things she shared was the value associated with questions. She said two things that stuck out to me.
  • There is no such thing as a stupid question. Except if you aren’t interested in the answer.
  • Your peers aren’t critically thinking if no one is asking questions.
The power of asking questions is tremendous. I do think that there are important parameters though. You should have an objective or a reason for asking your questions. You should also ask the right kinds of questions. In May I blogged about “Asking the Right Questions.” I think it’s only appropriate to share that post again in lieu of reminder of how valuable questions can be.
So without further ado…

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

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

2 responses to “The Value of Asking Questions”

  1. Ed Caldwell

    Rather than coin the term “asking the right questions,” I prefer the term “asking effective” questions. In my view there is no value in labelling a “good,” or
    bad” question. Unless it is a question of “fact,” a question is effective if it stimulates further thought and inquiry.

    Effective questioning does not come easily. In fact, through experience of teaching thousands of adults, as well as my own personal experience, I believe that effective questioning is developed as a skill over a long term developpmental process.

    Questions have their own logic. In developing better crtitical thinking, someone who is dedicated to improving their skills can learn to ask more effective questions by learning and understanding the logic of their own questions, as well as the logic of the questions they are being asked.

    It should be noted the Richard Paul also states that “superficial questions equals superficial understanding.” Too often the models we see in action around questioning demonstrates a superficial style. If we look to mass media as role modelling this essential skill, we will be left with only superficial thinking about deep complex problems.

    1. lizziepauker

      Yes! The ability to ask “effective” questions is an invaluable skill – one that should be developed (and practiced) by everyone!

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