Questions are the Answers
CXO - Sohan Tiwade

If birds can fly, why can’t human beings? If the sun lights the world during the day, why can’t we have light at night? Is the earth really the center of the universe? Is the disease truly in the blood, or there’s more to it than we can see? If someone has done it and has been successful, can we repeat the same steps and be successful elsewhere? These were the questions that few people of yore asked and changed our world as it is today. You can surely guess who they were. They were some greats like the Wright brothers, Edison, Copernicus, Semmelweis, and Benjamin Franklin. The invention of aero planes, the heliocentric universe, germ theory, and the franchise business model are all such inventions that changed the world and made it a better place for us to be in.

You can see that without asking powerful questions and being curious; you cannot have innovations that can change our world to be a better world. Today the need of the education world is to re–discover this art that Socrates once introduced to his students, the power to ask better questions.

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Isidor Rabi was once asked ‘What had propelled him to become a scientist?’ His answer, as told in a letter to The New York Times, is illuminating:

“My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: So, Did you learn anything today? But not my mother. She always asked me a different question. Izzy, she would say, did you ask a good question today? That difference, asking good questions, made me become a scientist!” India has some catching up to do with the global Innovation and research index. India is currently ranked 48th with a jump of four positions in the Global Innovation Index. If we want to better our position and foster more creativity and innovation, we have to create an environment of curiosity and encourage our students to ask better questions.

The teachers play a vital role in helping develop the spirit of curiosity and inquisitiveness among students. As a teacher we can:

  • Make our classrooms a safe environment where questions are encouraged.
  • Praise students for asking questions.
  • Help them to ask open and close-ended questions.
  • Give assignments to write questions they can come up with on a particular topic.

As teachers, we should stop posing ourselves as know-it people. Many of the teachers are offended and consider it an insult when a student asks a question that they don’t have an answer to. Next such teachers resort to intimidating the students or just beating around the bush thus discouraging the spirit of inquisitiveness among students.

As teachers, we should be examples of people who are thirsty for knowledge. We should ask questions to students and be courageous to admit if we don’t know the answer ourselves. We should encourage the students to see the answers that we cannot see. The caliber of students in a course should not be decided as to how well he or they can answer questions, but how better questions he or they can ask.

Close-ended questions will not encourage more thinking. If I ask, Who built the Taj Mahal? The answer will be King Shahjan. This is an example of a close-ended question. But if we ask or encourage students with more open-ended questions, we will encourage more critical thinking. So, if I ask, How can we build a modern-day Taj Mahal? It will elicit more critical thinking.

Let’s explore some questions we can use in the classroom:

A.What might the answer be?

Don’t say, What is the answer? The word, ‘might’ will give the impression that there is no one right answer you are expecting but ready to hear more options. This will encourage the students to think of more than one way to know the answer.

B.What’s your opinion?

When as teachers, we keep on asking students this question, we are giving them the impression that their opinion matters. They will involve more with the matter they are studying. They will be encouraged to share their opinions, thoughts, doubts, etc.

C.Would not another shot at it be worthwhile?

Many students when they struggle to understand something will quit and give up. They will say, I cannot do it. A teacher should always have a question to encourage them not to quit. Would not another shot at it be worthwhile? The teacher by posing this question will take the pressure off the student. She will tell the student that she is always there if the student is willing to give his more.

Moreover, it will bring out the real purpose of learning which is to be a better person despite the outcome. Learning is a journey this thought is important that this question carries.


This is one of the most important questions that we can encourage our students to ask. Why is it a Socratic question. It rather encouraged scientific inquiry into things. It will help our students to delve further into the information they have and not be satisfied with superficial information.

Human brains have a reticular activating system. When it is activated, our brain filters out all the unnecessary information that is irrelevant and helps us to focus on the essential goal. One of the effective methods to activate it is to ask the right question. The right type of questions can help us or our students to focus on what matters. Let us all understand that there is power in asking the right question. The answers only come to those who ask questions. Ask and it will be given to you. Let’s create a culture where we welcome good questions for indeed, Questions are the Answers.

About the Author

Sohan Tiwade, Professional Speaker & Corporate Soft Skills Trainer Asst.Prof., Sanjay Ghodawat University

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