An open question is likely to receive a long answer.
Although any question can receive a long answer, open questions deliberately seek longer answers, and are the opposite of closed questions.
They ask the respondent to think and reflect.
They will give you opinions and feelings.
They hand control of the conversation to the respondent.
This makes open questions useful in the following situations:
As follow-on from closed questions, to develop a conversation and open up someone who is rather quiet?
What did you do on you holidays?
When opening conversations, a good balance is around three closed questions to one open question. The closed questions start the conversation and summarize progress, whilst the open question gets the other person thinking and continuing to give you useful information about them.
There are two definitions that are used to describe closed questions. A common definition is:
“A closed question can be answered with either a single word or a short phrase.”
Thus ‘How old are you?’ and ‘Where do you live?’ are closed questions.
A more limiting definition is:
A closed question can be answered with either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Thus ‘Are you happy?’ and ‘Is that a knife I see before me?’ are closed questions, whilst ‘How are you?’ and even ‘How old are you?’ are not, by this definition, closed. This limited definition is also sometimes called a ‘yes or no’ question, for obvious reasons.
Closed questions have the following characteristics:
They give you facts.
They are easy to answer.
They are quick to answer.
They keep control of the conversation with the questioner.
This makes closed questions useful in the following situations:
As opening questions in a conversation, as it makes it easy for the other person to answer, and doesn’t force them to reveal too much about themselves.
Its great weather, isn’t it?
Where do you live?
What time is it?
For testing their understanding (asking yes/no questions). This is also a great way to break into a long ramble.
So, you want to move into our apartment, with your own bedroom and bathroom — true?
For setting up a desired positive or negative frame of mind in them (asking successive questions with obvious answers either yes or no).
Are you happy with your current mobile provider?
Do they give you all that you need?
Would you like to find a better provider?
Or to elicit specific pieces of information from the pupil.
Leading or Assumptive questions
Questions which are deliberately designed to make pupils think in a certain way.
Leading questions include the answer, point the listener in the right direction or include some form or carrot or stick to send them to the ‘right’ answer.
Leading questions are often directional in that, whilst they do not indicate an answer, they close off undesirable alternatives and guide the person in a desired direction.
Sometimes leading questions are desirable. At other times, they are very undesirable. It is important at all times to recognize them and only use them when there is a deliberate purpose for doing so.
Asking questions that get the other person to think of consequences or implications of current or past events links the past with the future in an inescapable chain of cause-and-effect.
“If you forget to signal before turning, what will the driver behind you think you are about to do?
“You’re about to turn into the 2nd road on the right, yet you signal whilst approaching the first road – how might other road users interpret your signal?
Ask for agreement
A very direct leading question is where they are closed questions that clearly ask for agreement, making it easier for the other person to say ‘yes’ than ‘no’.
“Do you agree that we need to work on your Reverse Parking?”
“Is it true that you are happier now you’re driving more confidently?”