There’s a world of difference between useful questions and useless questions.
What’s the difference? Useful questions help to focus attention on intended goals. Useless questions focus on the pain required to achieve those intended goals.
The illustration at the top of this article pretty clearly demonstrates how a useful question leads attention towards focusing on the long view for achieving intended goals. Focusing on the long view helps to keep attention away from immediate downsides and discomforts. When we help our students develop and maintain focus on the long view, we’re helping them to build growth mindset.
An unhelpful or even downright useless question focuses attention on short-term gains. And short term gains rarely, if ever, develop growth mindset.
It’s not just what we ask, but also HOW we ask …
When we ask one of these questions that we hope will help to develop growth mindset, let’s always remember that wordless communication has a significant effect. Can we ask useful questions with genuine respect? Can we ask useful questions with authentic openness to whatever answers the students have, so that openings are created for honest, 2-way discussions?
Whenever our students feel genuinely heard, like all human beings, they’re much more likely to also listen. (Maybe not right away, but if they get used to being heard -genuinely, with respect and undivided attention- they’ll be more open to genuinely, with respect and undivided attention, listening to others.)
IF & WHEN we ask useful questions with a true sense of positive expectation for the wisdom of our students, they will pick up on it. (Because, as you know and experience every day, we’re all picking up on each other’s unspoken signals, feelings and judgments, pretty much all the time. Right?!!)
A few more examples of USEFUL questions to help grow students’ growth mindset …
- What do you think you might be missing?
- What are some ways you could look at this in completely different ways?
- Are you on the right track, but just missing a few pieces?
- Would brainstorming with someone else help?
- What do you think would hurt more: Giving up OR Making the extra effort to train your brain to eventually get it?