Asking Meaningful Questions

As a facilitator, asking meaningful questions is one of the most important skills you have, whether it is to prompt individual reflection, discussion, and/or writing. Below are some guidelines for asking questions that will encourage participants to engage in critical thinking and deep reflection.

Guidelines:

  • Ask questions that are thought-provoking.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Ensure your questions have more than one right answer (e.g., “what changes could improve X?”).
  • Ensure your questions are clear. Effective questions contain enough information so the participants can easily identify what they are asked to reflect on (e.g., “given the conditions I just described, what changes might lead to a more positive outcome?”).
  • Be open-minded. Ensure the questions are not slanted toward a particular point of view (e.g., “why do you think X is corrupt?”).
  • Provoke analysis and reflection (e.g., “how would you explain…” or “why…”).
  • Promote thinking about cause and effect (e.g., “what are the causes of…”).
  • Cause dissonance and/or act as the “devil’s advocate” (e.g., “why would some think otherwise?” or “what is an alternative point of view?”).
  • Allow participants to compare and contrast (e.g., “what is the difference between…” or “what is the relationship…”).
  • Provide space for participants to respond to questions before jumping in to reframe the question. Consider waiting at least three seconds (tip: count to ~5) before speaking. For a virtual workshop, allow a longer delay for participants to think and type/select their response, consider waiting at least ten seconds
  • Do not answer your own questions.
  • For virtual workshops, you may want to start by asking simple yes or no questions and allow participants to answer in the chat, or having an interactive poll as a way to get participants engaged .

 


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