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The power of questioning to increase critical thinking, common sense and creativity


By Michelle Post

I love the written word.  One of my favorite writers, Mark Batterson, in his book “A Trip Around the Sun” discussed the observation that children ask roughly 125 questions per day and adults ask about six questions per day.  The result being that somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we lose 119 questions per day.  This (along with the Warren Berger book “A More Beautiful Question”) really sparked my passion, or what my husband calls my “obsession” with asking questions.

Research repeatedly shows the better questions one asks, whether a child or an adult, the better critical thinker one becomes.  In addition to increased critical thinking, an individual can improve his or her own common sense and creativity.  Often times, solving a problem by finding the answer is far less insightful than asking the right questions and the process by which the answer is reached.

How does one become a master questionnaire?  The answer is by learning to ask questions using several different techniques: 1) Ask the six “W”s – who, what, when, where, why and how; 2) utilize mind tools such as the 5 Whys – asking “why” to the answer of a question repeatedly five times to narrow down an underlying causal factor in the problem; 3) exercise Socratic questioning, whereby you seek to get the other person to answer their own questions by making them think and by drawing the answer out of them; 4) Use alternative questioning techniques such as rhetorical questions, open- and closed-ended questions, probing questions (asking for an example) and leading questions; and 5) Mastering metacognition – knowing how and when to use which strategies for problem solving or learning (thinking about thinking).

By perfecting the art of the question, one can  unlock deeper understanding.

Additional resources about questioning techniques:
The 6-Ws (Also known as the 5-Ws + How) – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Ws
The 5-Whys – www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_5W.htm
The Socratic Questions – www.changingminds.org/techniques/questioning/socratic_questions.htm
Alternative Questioning Techniques – www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_88.htm
Thinking About Your Thinking (Metacognition) – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metacognition

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