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Asking the Right Questions

Communicating, Asking the Right Kinds of Questions


"Isidore Isaac Rabi, winner of a Nobel Prize for physics, when asked why he became a scientist, replied, “My mother made me a scientist without ever knowing it. Every other child would come back from school and be asked, ‘What did you learn today?’ But my mother used to say, ‘Izzy, did you ask a good question today?’ That made the difference. Asking good questions made me into a scientist.”

Questions come in two forms, open and close ended.  The close ended kind have one answer and the conversation is over. The open ended kind tend to lead to deeper thinking and their answers can lead to more questions.

From PBS Parents here are some questions that work when talking about school

  • “Wow, what a cool picture of a squirrel. I like the bushy tail. What does he use it for?”
  • “Can you explain photosynthesis to me?”
  • “What is a whole number, anyway?

For more samples on opening communication see  Questions that Work
http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/going-to-school/talking-with-kids-about-school/questions/." Web log post. PBS Parents. PBS, Winter 2013. Web. 4 Mar. 2014.

From Education Canada
Asking an open-ended question (sometimes called a divergent question) is a way to elicit discussion, brainstorm solutions to a problem, or create opportunities for thinking outside the box.  The highest-order open-ended questions engage students in dynamic thinking and learning, where they must synthesize information, analyze ideas and draw their own conclusions. Some examples are:
•        Why did the Vietnam War take place?
•        How did you solve the numbers problem?
•        What do you think will happen in this experiment?
 Open-ended questions can also be phrased as commands or statements:
•        Describe how photosynthesis works.
•        Please explain the main character’s motives.

To read the article in its entirety, Engaging Students Through Effective Questions
Neal, Mary-Anne. "Engaging Students Through Effective Questions | Canadian Education Association (CEA)." Engaging Students Through Effective Questions | Canadian Education Association (CEA). Cea, Winter 2014. Web. 7 Mar. 2014.


Question Mark image From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository