I’m taking some online courses to finish my college degree. The actual material isn’t very difficult but the “discussion” questions are frustrating. I understand the purpose of questions in this situation is to verify the student has read and even possibly comprehends the information presented but the art of questions seems to be a lost, if ever acknowledged, art.
Conversational questions that begin with “Do you want…” can be answered with “Yes” or “No”. Simple and straightforward. But if you add one more word to those same three little words it becomes an open-ended question “What do you want…” that can lead to discussion and further information.
Nothing shuts down the flow of communication faster that a closed question unless it’s a vague question. “Do you not know…” Huh? When a simple “Do you know…” leaves the respondent able to formulate a fitting reply rather than decipher what the actual question is.
Written questions present their own set of challenges in that you can’t actually hear the tone or see the expression that goes with the words. Leading questions that are clear enough to direct the respondent to the desired answer may be so full of the answer itself or so incredibly obvious that it leaves the respondent nothing to add or with a sense of futility. The flip side of that coin are the questions that are so broad the respondent has no clue what the questionnaire is trying to ascertain.
At the same time I am taking the online classes I am over seeing the independent study program my teenage daughter is taking through the local school district. This morning I was going over the written responses to the assigned reading passages for her Language Arts assignments. The answers were well thought out but incredibly short. After reading the questions I was impressed she was able to write as much as she did.
I am also teaching a study through Genesis right now. This is my fifth time teaching through this material and each time the emphasis has been different. This time the thing that is really jumping off the pages for me personally are the questions God asks. He asks some very open-ended questions.
“Where are you?”
“Who told you you were naked?”
“Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
“What is this you have done?”
“Why are you angry?”
“Why has your countenance fallen?”
“Where is your brother?”
“Where have you come from?”
“Where are you going?”
“What’s the matter with you?”
Later Jesus shows the same inquiring facet of God’s character with some very open-ended questions.
“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
“Which is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk?”
“What do you want?”
“Who do you say I am?”
We’re heading into a new year and a big question is “what are you going to do with it”? Before you start searching for answers. I would encourage you to really take a long hard look at the questions you are asking.
What is the first question that came to mind?
What is the question you have been carrying around in search of an answer for the longest?
What one question would you most like to have a solid answer for?
Find better answers…Ask better questions…