Asking Questions, Getting Answers

Sometimes, I ask questions and get strange answers.  In a recent workshop series I asked what I thought was a simple question.  Some didn’t answer and others told me things that seemed unrelated to my question.

The problem, as it usually is when the answer doesn’t “match” the question, is the question itself, often combined with the listener’s understanding of what is behind the question.  An example – “Do you want chicken for dinner?” is answered by “Are you saying you want to go out for dinner?”  Or the same question is answered by “What? Leftovers again?”  More clearly, I could have asked, “Do you want chicken or fish?”  or “We have chicken vegetable soup and roasted chicken in the fridge.  Would you like one of those for dinner?”

In classrooms, when teachers ask questions and children’s answers are not what the teacher expects, the teacher often thinks the student doesn’t understand the subject matter.  I’ve seen this when I supervised student teachers.  They would ask a question that I had trouble following, and when the child couldn’t come up with the answer the student had in mind, the student teacher told me that the child didn’t “get it”.

The more clear the question, the easier it is for the person being asked to come up with an answer related to the question.