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Understand the Purpose Behind the Question


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The ability to ask good questions is essential in today’s world. However, as Stephen Covey categorized in one of his 7 Habits; “Seek first to Understand, then to be understood.” Or another way Dale Carnegie phrased this, “To be interesting, be interested.” To accomplish this, I think one of the areas that most of could work on is to develop our ability to quickly recognize the purpose of the question. When we do this, it is much easier to align perspectives and therefore engage in collaborative efforts.

Adapted from the work of Stafford (2009) and from the book, Collaborating for Inquiry-Based Learning: School Librarians and Teachers Partner for Student Achievement by Virginia L. Wallace and Whitney N. Husid, the Purposes for Question diagram is an ideal training aid for me in sales and marketing.

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Understand the Purpose Behind the Question

  1. 1. Purposes for Questions Yes/No Verify Facts Do/Did Is/Was Where Can/May Fact Finding Define Who Whom Whose What Locate Where When Quantify How much How many How long How far How often Sense-Making Sort Which Sequence Order Classify Sort Group Organize Analyze How Why What if Clarify Rephrase What is meant by Compare /Contrast Similarities Differences Predict Forecast Hypothesize Consequence Infer Cause-Effect Insight Why might Judgement-Forming Justify Why should Why would Why could Critique How should How would How could Closed Foundational Supporting Lower Order Thinking Skills Open Essential Higher Order Thinking Skills Adapted from Stafford (2009) and Collaborating for Inquiry-Based Learning by Wallace & Husid 2011