Asking probing questions is a component that goes hand-in-hand with focused listening. Rarely does someone truly understand everything another is saying without at least asking a couple of probing questions. The key is to not ask questions for the sake of asking questions, or ask questions that do not relate to the conversation. For example, Amy talks to Michelle about a project they are going to work on together. The goal of the project is to create a high school lesson plan for a literature teacher. Michelle has never created a lesson plan and has no idea of what is included in one. The conversation is as follows:
Amy: Hi Michelle. Today we are going to prepare a lesson plan for a high school literature teacher. This lesson is for the book, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. It is not necessary for you to read the book. We have a summary and analysis for each chapter, which is sufficient to develop the plan. There are several sections of the lesson plan that we have to write and it has a non-negotiable deadline.
Michelle: Great, Amy. I look forward to writing the lesson plan with you; however, I have several questions:
- Specifically, what are the sections that we must create?
- Is there a template or certain grammatical rules that we must follow?
- In what format do we complete the lesson plan?
- What is the final due date?
Amy felt like she adequately described the assignment and how it should be done, but because Michelle was listening carefully, she had the opportunity to ask several probing questions to gain a better understanding of what was to be done.