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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Using Open-Ended Questions to Invite Thinking

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Thinking Collaborative


October 19, 2015

The first three Norms of Collaboration in Adaptive Schools are parallel to three critical tools of a Cognitive Coach – pausing, paraphrasing, and posing questions. During September, we revisited some thinking about pausing and paraphrasing. This month we will consider the skill of posing questions for inquiry and mediating thinking.

“Know one’s intentions and choose congruent behaviors,” is the first capability in both Adaptive Schools and Cognitive CoachingSM. When questioning, we are guided by that capability, considering our intention before asking a question. Rarely does a person operating from the identity of inquirer or mediator ask a closed question that requires a yes or no response. A question like, “Do you like the idea?” requires little thinking. When we ask, instead, “How do you feel/What do you think about the idea,” thinking is invited.

A tip for use in practicing open-ended questions is to stick to beginning the question with an interrogative such as “why” or “how.” When a question begins with a verb such as, “Can you,” “Do you,” or “Will you,” the question usually requires little thinking. When we combine open-ended questions with plurals and tentative language, our questions increase their horsepower for deepening our work.

Consider audio or video recording yourself in a conversation or meeting in the next weeks. Use that data to analyze your strengths in asking invitational questions.

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