Follow-up questions are the key to promoting critical and creative thinking. Many questions yield limited or shallow responses, so it’s the follow-up questions that will make a significant difference in pursuing ideas. They also help create group cohesion and challenge participants to find and weigh evidence and justify their thoughts.
Without sufficient follow-up questions, conversations will tend to be shallow and brief. Ideas will not be thoroughly explored or substantiated with evidence. Innovative ideas will likely not be generated or given the time they may need to blossom or be appreciated. Without timely follow-through, students are likely to stay confused or unsure of their ideas. Most importantly, the complexities of a text will rarely reveal themselves without follow-up questions.
In order to facilitate better conversations, keep a list of follow-up questions nearby and refer to them often. Keep asking until the original question is satisfied or until a breakthrough occurs. A good complex text will often reveal itself in layers, like peeling an onion. Like all Socratic Classroom practices, use the principle of gradual release of responsibility and get the students to ask them as soon as possible and then move on to a new skill. Practice active listening and respond with questions that go deeper. Learn more about listening through the International Listening Association.
Here are some sample follow-up questions that will drive thinking deeper:
- Could you summarize that in your own words?
- Who can paraphrase that to help us out?
- Who else can add to this line of thinking?
- Can you explain that further?
- Where can we find more evidence for this idea?
- What in the text makes you say that?
- How did you come to that conclusion?
- What are we assuming about that?
- Are there any alternatives?
- Where are you the most confused?
- What was the most difficult part of this text?
- What other questions are raised by that idea?
- Who agrees with that idea? Disagrees?
- What kind of disagreement are you expressing?
- How does that relate to our essential question?
- How could we keep this line of thinking going?
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