Are You Asking the “Right” Questions?

By Rebecca Bauer
Asking the right questions: Teacher Sitting at a School Desk Showing a Book to a Parent and Her Son

Sometimes as parents, it feels like we are at a disadvantage when we meet with teachers and administrators about our child’s progress or a challenge. If only we had a magic ball to help us ask the exact question that will get to the heart of our concern or confusion. But what are the right questions to ask to get what we need?

During a recent episode of Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast, Luz Santana, of the Right Question Institute, shared a strategy that helps parents ask better questions and participate more effectively in decisions that affect their child’s learning and development.

What is the Question Formulation Technique (QFT)?

The question formulation technique is a step-by-step process that allows parents to brainstorm and then prioritize their questions. Then, they work on different kinds of questions, like open-ended questions and questions that can be answered with yes or no, or with one word. Santana emphasized that closed and open-ended questions are good and useful.

“Sometimes, what you want to do is to ask a close-ended question because you want that yes, no or one-word answer to pose the next question,” said Santana.

Planning Questions Ahead of Time Can Be Empowering

Parents often have opportunities to ask the right questions to their children’s teachers, in person, on the phone or via email, but sometimes it is difficult to take full advantage of the opportunity.

“What the question formulation technique does, is it gives parents a tool so they will prepare their questions ahead of time and choose the most important ones to ask at the right time,” Santana said. “When parents go through the process, they realize that there is a burning question that they wished to ask but that they never felt that they had the license to ask.”

For more tips on crafting powerful questions to enhance your communication with your children and their teachers, listen to the full interview with Luz Santana, available wherever you listen to podcasts!

Rebecca Bauer is the family engagement specialist with the Center for Family Engagement at National PTA.

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