Crafting good questions

The Conversation Café provides some guidance on how teachers might craft good questions.

Some ideas are summarised below.



Characteristics of a good question:

  • There are no embedded cultural, political, or ideological assumptions.
  • It involves both head and heart. People can respond with their feelings and their thoughts.
  • It has not already been answered conclusively―yet finding an answer is crucial to moving forward.
  • If they choose, people can tell a story or recall an experience that relates to the question.
  • Anyone at the table could have something valuable to say―whatever their age, race, gender, or level of education may be.
  • Can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no”, or a platitude.
  • Even though broad, the question applies to many of the real issues we each and all face.
  • Makes you want to find an answer and do something about it.

Questions for Connecting Ideas and Finding Deeper Insight:

  • What’s taking shape? What are you hearing underneath the variety of opinions being expressed? What’s in the centre of the table?
  • What’s emerging here for you? What new connections are you making?
  • What had real meaning for you from what you’ve heard? What surprised you? What challenged you?
  • What’s missing from this picture so far? What is it we’re not seeing? What do we need more clarity about?
  • What’s been your/our major learning, insight, or discovery so far?
  • What’s the next level of thinking we need to do?
  • If there was one thing that hasn’t yet been said in order to reach a deeper level of understanding/clarity, what would that be?


Questions That Create Forward Movement

  • What would it take to create change on this issue?
  • What could happen that would enable you/us to feel fully engaged and energized about (your situation)?
  • What’s possible here and who cares? (rather than “What’s wrong here and who’s responsible?”)
  • What needs our immediate attention going forward?
  • If our success was completely guaranteed, what bold steps might we choose?
  • How can we support each other in taking the next steps? What unique contribution can we each make?
  • What challenges might come our way and how might we meet them?
  • What conversation, if begun today, could ripple out in a way that created new possibilities for the future of (your situation)?
  • What seed might we plant together today that could make the most difference to the future of (your situation)?



Vogt, E., Brown, J., and Issacs, D. (2003). The Art of Powerful Questions: Catalyzing Insight, Innovation, and Action.