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Effective Questioner


What is an Effective Questioner?


A questioner needs to have five broad competencies to be able to construct good relevant questions, and from these we can draw a definition of an effective questioner.


1        An effective questioner needs firstly to be able to clarify the context.

Clarifying the context may be the composition of a question at the Primary layer of inquiry questioning. An example could be posing a question like ‘What is an effective question?” A learner may pose such a question to guide and direct their own inquiry and learning.

Clarifying the context may also be the recognition of a problem or issue and its component parts.


2        An effective questioner needs to be able to identify the information need.

What do they need to know? A statement that clarifies what the inquirer needs to know is an important tool that aids the construction of relevant questions. If an inquirer can’t identify that they need information about the breeding cycle it is obviously going to be difficult to ask an appropriate question. This ability is like the hammer that will help them build effective questioners.


3        An effective questioner needs to be able to identify the relevant vocabulary (key words and phrases).

The relevant vocabulary is like the nails that they can use to build highly relevant questions. These two skills are complementary.


4        An effective questioner needs to be able to ask a range of relevant questions.

They need to be able to ask relevant closed ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions, combining relevant contextual vocabulary with question words like can, does, do, should, could, would, may etc.

They need to be able to ask relevant closed and open questions, combining relevant contextual vocabulary with question words like who, what when, where, why, how, and which. (7 Servants: taken from Rudyard Kipling’s poem………… )

They need to be able to ask probing questions that provide a tight context and probe deep into a person’s knowledge, beliefs or opinions.


5        An effective questioner needs to be able to identify and utilise a range of relevant and appropriate sources and must be able to apply judgement in identifying and choosing these sources. It is ineffective to take good relevant questions to inappropriate or irrelevant sources.


6        An effective questioner needs to be able to edit their questions, finding appropriate synonyms of key words when they run into barriers and problems, as they seek the required information. For instance if they have the question “How is an aboriginal humpy made?” they may not gain the information they need till they edit the question and replace ‘made’ with ‘constructed’ or further edit the question to “What is the construction of an aboriginal humpy?”


7        An effective questioner also needs to have an attitude of persistence. Extracting relevant needed information from multiple sources is not an easy task and often requires persistence to see the task to its conclusion.


The above are the main skills that enable a person to construct and compose effective questions. However it is important to realise that there is a further set of skills involved. These skills come mainly from the realms of Literacy and Information Literacy and include the ability to:  

§        Comprehend the information that a source can provide.

§        Extract the required information from the sources that contain it.

§        Store and manage extracted information

§        Apply and use that information to meet the initial need.


An independent learner needs to be able to pose relevant effective questions and this includes a number of skills. However the ability to pose a good question doesn’t stand alone, a good questioner needs a further range of skills to help locate and extract the answers to their questions from the relevant sources, such as a range of search and location skills, textual and visual comprehension skills, thinking and analytical skills, and communication skills.


From this I draw the following two definitions.


An effective question is one that returns the required relevant information.


 An ‘Effective Questioner’ is one who can:

§        identify an information need

§        pose a range of ‘relevant questions’

§        take them to a variety of appropriate sources

§        edit questions where necessary

§        persist until they locate the required information.