Author: topcoach team (Veronika Korim & Sona Štefkova)

Asking the right questions can be the magic key to any kind of personal or professional development. A simple “why?” opens the door to a rich dialogue. A “how?” removes doubt or misunderstanding and gives space to creativity. Unfortunately, many people don’t ask questions at all, out of fear of asking the wrong question. Especially low skilled adult learners, who often want to learn, but are afraid they might not be good, or qualified enough. However, it’s impossible to move forward without asking questions. 

The art of asking the right questions

Questioning does not mean simply asking questions. The important thing is to ask the right questions at the right time. For this, active listening and rephrasing are two precious allies. Being attentive to non-verbal communication and know how to adapt is helpful as well.

Much of a trainer’s time is spent asking questions. Yet not all of them consider questioning as a skill that can be honed — or consider (and adapt) how their own answers to questions could make conversations more productive. That’s a missed opportunity. While asking questions may seem a simple task, it is perhaps the most powerful tool you possess as an adult educator.  If you ask the right question of the right learner at the right moment, you may inspire them to new heights of vision and insight.  A good question can excite, disturb, or comfort.  But even apart from such serendipitous moments, question-asking serves many functions that make it the stock in trade of the skillful trainer. 

Good questions can also:

  • Motivate adult learners  learning and fuel curiosity
  • Foster intellectual development and stimulate critical thinking
  • Assess learners’ understanding
  • Guide discussion and shape a positive learning environment
  • Yield an unexpected bounty of understanding and critical awareness

General Strategies for asking questions

  • When planning questions, keep in mind your course goals. 
  • Aim for direct, specific questions. 
  • Ask questions throughout your class and ask only one question at a time. 
  • Ask open-ended questions. 
  • Avoid asking rhetorical questions. 
  • Don’t set traps.
  • Refine and reflect on questions after class. 
  • Silence is golden. 

Read the full version of the learning material at our Toolkit (click here).