Questions are the power tool of learning. They drill through the surface into deeper layers of meaning and understanding. They shape and guide our thinking. Asking good questions of yourself and others is an important skill of life-long learners. It is even more valuable than knowing the answers because answers frequently change in our fast-paced world. How do you make your questions more powerful?
- Anticipate. Use questions to propel yourself forward. Look into the future and play with “What if” scenarios.
Example: What if we did the impossible? What would happen then?
- Ask open-endedly. Open-ended questions are more engaging. They expand rather than limit your thinking. Get comfortable with WH-questions: Who, What, When, Where, How, Why.
Example: How can I do it differently?
- Change Assumptions. Ask questions to make a leap into the unknown and push yourself to the edges of your comfort zone. Rebel against your own linear thinking. Connect the opposites, flip the assumptions, mock the established theories.
Example: How can we do the impossible?
- Seek relevancy. Ask questions that are relevant to your life and your unique situation. You want the knowledge gained from your questions to have a direct impact on you.
Example: What is the most important thing we should be addressing right now?
- Be authentic. Ask authentic questions that reflect your values and aspirations. When we connect to the subject matter on the emotional level, we feel more engaged, and as a result, we learn and remember better.
Example: Why does it matter?
- Practice empathy. Step into the shoes of someone affected by the question. What are their fears and hopes? Use questions to bridge the gap between the opposing points of view by revealing common interests, values, goals. Questions promote collaboration while assertions may lead to unproductive conflicts.
Example: How do you feel about...?
What are your favorite powerful questions?
Orientation Series: 21 Steps to Becoming a Better Learner:
Step 1: Setting your learning objectives
Step 2: Taking an inventory of your skills
Step 3: Taking an Inventory of Your Learning Tools
Step 4: Finding opportunities for cognitive apprenticeship
Step 5: Determining the "IIQ" of what you read
Step 6: Choosing helpful books for law students
Step 7: “The Three 'P's of Performance” in Action
Step 8: Tapping into your social networks
Step 9: Identifying your learning barriers
Step 10: Finding your sources of motivation
Step 11: Managing your energy
Step 12: Focusing on how you think
Step 13: Mastering informal learning and professional development