We've had a chance to think about what might be challenging about following rules of a game. In the case of this series, the rules for producing questions really shouldn't be all that challenging. Still, they can be for some not patient or willing. All it takes is giving the The Good Question Game (aka the RQFT) a chance to understand why rules are necessary. As I explain to children, no one expects to be in a soccer game that has no common set of rules. Rules provide a framework for common expectation, goal, and steady process.
On this day of the summer school program in which we were preparing for the Good Question Game, we took the time to establish the difference between open-ended and closed-ended questions. This is a pivotal step, and it takes simple practice to get good at it quickly.
We use closed-ended questions when a single word or very short phrase is what we are seeking for an answer. While they can be used to open up conversations, their use is specific to gathering more finite data.
When we ask open-ended questions, in any situation, we are looking for responses that have some description or depth. Open-ended questions are the stuff of conversation and of the active pursuit of gaining deeper understanding.
Our skill of being curious and of asking questions is demonstrated when we thoughtfully choose the kinds questions that will lead to information and insight.
Some examples of closed-ended questions:
How old are you?
What kind of ice cream would you like?
Have you been here before?
Do you need directions?
What size shoe do you wear?
Do you need help?
Some examples of open-ended questions:
How did you meet Sam?
What do you feel was most beneficial about your school experience?
What are some of the things that bring you the most joy?
What interests do you and your siblings share, and which interests do you not share?
What are some of your goals for the future?
How does your family celebrate special holidays?
How can I help you?
From these examples we see that close-ended questions are used to gain concise and quick responses. Open-ended questions are gateways into conversations. Both types of questions are equally important to understand, recognize, and apply.
There are so many ways to explore how we experience questions in our lives. Whether in our playtime, personal relationships, public life, school, faith and work lives, there will be a question. In the heightened and intense political culture we are in, vital rhetorical or actual questions are all too few. In the race for first, best, and brightest, we never seem to witness true curiosity. Why is this? Is there no time? Wouldn't we be more connected if we observed the process of public conversation, learning, and the formation of ideologies through inquiry? Why does it seem that to ask questions is to be perceived as weak? Where is humility, with courage?
In the course of your own day, notice what is spontaneous for you in the way you greet people, work with others, participate in a classroom. How often do we sincerely start a sentence with, "could you explain.......?" How often do we go out of our way to ask someone, "hey...want to talk?" Simply take mental or actual notes.
The Right Question Formulation Technique was developed to address the developmental needs of students so they can engage more actively and deeply with subject matters, learning and the pursuit of knowledge. Students formulate their own questions about a particular subject or topic. That action of being presented with a theme -- called the Question Focus (QFocus) and doing the self-inquiry of, "what don't I know about this?" is a very different reflex than what we are acculturated to do from a very young age.
(There are several studies that tell us that the age at which a human asks the most questions is four. There is much written about this in terms of brain science, sociology and educational theory. We can readily observe ourselves and the culture of a culture. How do our schools teach the art and skill of inquiry? What does media portray? What is the nature of typical conversations in the course of our day? We can be content with our observations or we can consider how we might cultivate more earnest inquiry. This takes time. It's worth it.
So get ready to ask open and closed-ended questions. Get ready to just try it out, the best you can, without actually being there for a round of the Good Question Game. It's as much about the giggles and the oohs and aaahs as it is about reading some directions and trying to enact the process yourself.
And imagine for a moment, who is capable of asking good questions? Does one have to already be "smart" to ask good questions?
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