Learning through questioning


We often learn things through rote memorisation or reading. Seldom do we learn through questioning. Of the three techniques, questioning has the added advantages of having the learner going through the process of self-reflection. When we ask ourselves questions,  we will run through the questions through our life experiences. When this happens, the answers or decisions that we came up with are usually more reflective of what we really feel, as compared to memorising or reading something (the outcome of which comes across as rather distant from self).

This is a technique that is often employed by not only educationists but social workers and counsellors as well. The reason why this technique is so popular is more than enabling a particular individual to self-reflect. Through this technique, an individual is able to pose a question to the other party and not offend directly. For example, let’s consider a situation whereby a social worker is advising a habitual gambler to stop gambling. There are two ways to put the message across:

 1. “Please quit gambling now. It’s going to harm your family as well as yourself.”

2. “How will your indulgence in gambling affect your family? ”

The first statement comes across as rather commanding and authoritative. Thus, it might not go down well with most gamblers who are under counselling.  Now, let’s look at the second question. It can be observed that the counsellor does not order or talk down to the habitual gambler but rather explores the adverse effect of gambling with his or her client. Notice that the counsellor does not make a presumption that gambling is bad. Instead, the counsellor encourages the habitual gambler to self-reflect and acknowledge his or her own mistakes. This is often the more effective solution.

Similarly, this technique is equally effective when applied within the context of the classroom. For example, say a facilitator is having a discussion with a group of 5-6 students on the issue of the use of the Global Positioning system (GPS). A question such as “Do you feel that the tracking function of a GPS system is also a form of surveillance? What are your thoughts on this?” This will encourage the students to contribute their thoughts on the subject matter, and it won’ be surprising to observe that some students will bring up interesting and relevant issues such as the breach of privacy on their own.

In your line of work (regardless of your profession), you should be able to apply the same techniques during meetings and discussions to get responses from your colleagues. A question stating your opinion (such as “From the current situation, I feel that more marketing effort should put into this product since it is new. What are your thoughts on this?”) posed to a group of individuals is often a more friendly and cohesive approach as compared to a direct statement of your views (such as “I feel that more marketing effort should be put into this product since it is new.”) Although the statement falls short by a question, the difference in your communication approach is dramatic.

Such is the awesome power of learning through questioning.


2 thoughts on “Learning through questioning

  1. Very good advice here. It’s clear you, yourself, have a high degree of “emotional intelligence,” as well.

    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas (in the Middle East)


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