5 Impactful Ways to Ask Better Questions For Learning

The best way to learn anything is to ask questions. Curiosity is the gateway to wisdom, and asking the right question can play a key role in how well you understand a topic.

One of the best things about ReSkills ONLIVE classes is you can ask your trainers questions during classes. Learning now becomes an interactive, two-way process, where you can get all your answers directly from the source.

But what kind of questions should you ask? That’s the million-dollar question. There’s a popular saying that there are no such thing as stupid questions. And that’s true: its better to ask and get an answer, no matter how stupid you think a question may sound. There are also ways to ask smart questions that will really boost your knowledge absorption. Here are 5 tips how.

1. Listen actively

When someone is imparting new knowledge to you, listen to the best of your ability. Yes, we know this can sometimes be difficult: its easy to get distracted by daydreams or outside sounds or your stomach rumbling. But listening actively allows you to better pick up the finer points of a message, and discover small nuances about it which you can bring up through your questions. It also ensures you do not accidentally ask questions about things that have already been covered in the lesson.  

2. Ask open-ended questions

If possible, try and ask questions which invite people to explain something, instead of those which can be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. For example, instead of asking someone ‘Did you like Singapore?’ (a yes/no answer), ask them ‘How did you find Singapore?’ (encourages further elaboration). This often results in the other person opening up and sharing a lot of further information.

The same goes with learning. Ask questions which invite discourse. ‘Did the Chinese invent paper?’ is an okay question. ‘How did the Chinese invent paper?’ is even better.

3. Keep questions simple and precise

Like many things in life, the smaller and simpler a question is, the better. For example, you could ask a long question like this in one go:

‘How does the moon affect the tides, and are there ways we could utilize this phenomenon, especially in the field of agriculture?’

There’s nothing really wrong with asking this way, but chances are the explainer will forget to address one or two parts of that rather complicated sentence. A better way of asking this is to split the question:

  1. How does the moon affect the tides?
  2. Can we utilize this force for mankind’s benefit?
  3. Can we use this in the field of agriculture?

The explainer can thus focus on each part of the question individually, and more often and not, will be able to give a clearer, more rounded answer about everything.

4. Consider other angles

When confronted with new fields of knowledge, we mostly view it in through our own personal lenses, understanding it from our own lived perspectives. But consider different viewpoints and contexts. How would this knowledge help someone from a different culture, or from a different background? How can this knowledge be applied to different industries? Might there be weaknesses or problems adapting this knowledge for other uses? Examining something from all sorts of angles not only improves your critical thinking, but also boosts your empathy.

5. Ask the question well

When asking your question, make sure to:

  1. Speak in a friendly, non-aggressive way
  2. Not interrupt the answer
  3. Listen for opportunities to ask follow-up questions
  4. Thank the person for answering after

Often times, a person’s answer will invite more questions, which will in turn lead to more knowledge being imparted. Follow-up questions normally come easier than starter questions as they arise organically from the situation.

All the best on your learning journey!

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