by Dr. Marvin Marshall
Reflection And Self-Evaluation - Part 3
(Continued from last issue)
Consider: When you tell, who does the thinking? When you ask, who does the thinking?
Reflective questions require a thinking response. Such questions
- are usually open-ended. They require more than a "yes" or "no" answer.
- focus on the present or future (as opposed to the past).
- help people learn through the process of thinking.
- help people ask questions of themselves.
- are framed to fit the situation and clarify.
- often start with "What?" or "How?"
Questions that can be answered "yes" or "no" are closed-ended questions because they often close conversations. However, they can be used if they lead to self-inquiry or self-evaluation, such as, "Is your time being used most profitably?" In some instances, just asking a question is sufficient. In other situations, "yes" or "no" questions can be effective if followed up with another question which calls for a solution. Here are some examples of effective closed-ended questions:
- Is what you are doing working?
- Is what you are doing helping to get your work done? How?
- Is what you are choosing to do helping you get what you want? How?
- Are you willing to do something different from what you have been doing?
- Are you taking the responsible course? How?
- Is there any other way it could be handled?
- If you could do better, should you?
- Are you satisfied with the results?
- What do you think an extraordinary person would do in this situation?
Questions do not need to end with a question mark. For example, "Please describe to me . . . ." is an effective clarification question. Other openers are "Illustrate. . . . " and "Walk me through. . . . "
Avoid asking a "Why?" question. Many times a young person does not know the reason for a behavior. Besides, such a question gives the student an excuse not to take responsibility. This is especially the case where youngsters are labeled. Even though the classification is meant to help, the label becomes a justification. "I can't help it. I have poor attention," is an example. Moreover, even if the "why" were to be known, articulating the explanation is very difficult. Most important, however, asking a "Why?" question has little effect on changing behavior.
"Why?" questions have an accusatory overtone. If you are really curious, ask a nonjudgmental question: "Out of curiosity, why did you choose this rather than that?" Change the structure of the question to eliminate any negative inference. A negative implication can be implied in other than "why" questions such as, "When are you going to stop doing that?" Notice the unspoken demand and negative undertone. In contrast, asking "How long will you be continuing that?" is inquisitive when asked in a non-accusatory tone. Of course, the tone of the voice is critical. The adage, "What you are doing speaks so loudly that I can't hear what you are saying" rings true here.
Questions As Stress Reducers
Stress is reduced when we ask reflective, self-evaluative questions. The reduction of stress comes about because of the position in which we place ourselves. When influencing someone, only a noncoercive approach is effective. A person may be temporarily controlled, but any lasting change comes only when the person wants to change. With this awareness, the first act is mental positioning. When practicing any skill, putting yourself in position always precedes any action. This is as true when asking evaluative-type questions as it is when holding a golf club before the swing, holding a baseball bat before the pitch arrives, shooting a basketball, holding a tennis racquet, or playing any musical instrument. The first step is placing yourself in a mental stance to employ noncoercion. You do not shout a question. The tone of voice communicates at least as much as the words. Even a horse understands this, as was reported by the trainer of Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown Winner. "Slew's a show horse. Thousands of people visit him each year. He's tough but kind, and he will do anything you ask him to do as long as you pose it as a question. If you give him an order, you are going to have a fight on your hands. And you're going to lose." (Time, April 28, 1997, p. 27)
Asking evaluative questions is a skill. As with any skill, you will feel awkward at first, but the more you practice asking self-evaluative questions, the more comfortable you become, the more confidence you develop, and the more effective you are. In addition, regardless of how often the strategy is used with a person, it is still effective because the strategy is noncoercive and empowering.
Practice is the mother of skill. Thinking about a skill is not practicing it. Thinking is necessary for focus, but only the actual asking of self-evaluative questions will give you the skill. With this in mind, the question is asked, "How do you develop the skill?" Answered the sage, "With experience." "But," asked the disciple, "How do you get the experience?" Came the answer, "By asking poor questions." Remember: you cannot learn a skill and be perfect at the same time. Each question asked is a learning experience and, if the desired result is not obtained, it should be thought of as feedback, not as failure.
- Reflection is a powerful teaching and learning strategy that is too often overlooked.
- When applied to oneself, reflection is self-evaluation, which engenders self-correction -- the most effective route to change and growth.
- The key to fostering reflection is the skill of asking evaluative questions, the most effective yet neglected strategy both in learning and in dealing with people.
- Asking evaluative questions is a skill and is only developed and becomes easy through practice.
- Asking self-evaluative questions reduces stress.
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Past Gazette Articles by Dr. Marshall:
- Ronald Reagan and the Art of Influence (June 2009)
- Discipline Is a Liberating Word (May 2009)
- Eliciting vs. Punishments (Apr. 2009)
- Habit vs. Awareness for the 3 Practices and for the Hierarchy of Social Development (Mar. 2009)
- How to Be Consistent (Feb. 2009)
- Teaching is an Art, Not a Science (Jan. 2009)
- Tapping Into Internal Motivation (Dec. 2008)
- People Do Better When They Feel Good (Nov. 2008)
- The Brain and Sleep (Oct. 2008)
- Using a Butterfly Analogy to Explain the Hierarchy of Social Development (Sept. 2008)
- 5 Classroom Tips (Aug. 2008)
- Discipline Without Stress, Inc. (July 2008)
- Visualization (June 2008)
- Promoting Responsibility - Or How Not To (May 2008)
- Immaculate Perception (April 2008)
- A System Is Superior To Talent (Mar. 2008)
- To promote responsibility, Elicit Rather Than Impose (Feb. 2008)
- Understanding Boys (Jan. 2008)
- Descartes' Error: I think; therefore, I am (July 2003)
- Metacognition -- Thinking about Thinking Is Essential for Learning (June 2003)
- Listening Lessons -- How to Help Kids Learn and Comprehend (May 2003)
- Approaches of Outstanding Teachers (Apr 2003)
- Using a Discipline Approach to Promote Learning (Mar 2003)
- Curriculum, Instruction, Classroom Management, and Discipline (Feb 2003)
- Learning and Relationships, The two are inseparable (Jan 2003)
- Accountability in Schools (Dec 2002)
- Suggestions For Motivation (Nov 2002)
- Given Names - When NOT to Use Them and when TO Use Them (Oct 2002)
- The Power Of Hierarchies (Sept 2002)
- Use the Language You Want Learned (Aug 2002)
- Observations From Last Year (July 2002)
- How The Horse Whisperer Trains a Wild Mustang in 30 Minutes (June 2002)
- Using Breath Management for Better Listening and Voice Preservation (May 2002)
- Reducing Stress By Promoting Responsibility--Rather than by Attempting to Manipulate Behavior (Apr 2002)
- Rules Vs. Expectations (Mar 2002)
- How to Achieve 100 Per Cent Student Participation (Feb 2002)
- Positivity, Choice, and Reflection Exercise for Students (Jan 2002)
- Learning Climate (Dec 2001)
- Reflection and Self-Evaluation (pt 3) (Nov 2001)
- Reflection and Self-Evaluation (pt 2) (Sep 2001)
- Reflection and Self-Evaluation (pt 1) (May 2001)
- The Empowerment Of Choice (pt 2) (Apr 2001)
- The Empowerment Of Choice (pt 1) (Mar 2001)
- Power Of Positivity (pt 2) (Feb 2001)
- Power Of Positivity (Jan 2001)
- Home Assignments (Dec 2000)
- Collaboration is the Key (Nov 2000)
- Classroom Meetings (Aug 2000)
Dr. Marshall's website: http://www.MarvinMarshall.com
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© Dr. Marvin Marshall, 2001.