‘Finding Out About Others: The Skill of Questioning’ (Hargie, 2011)

The main aim of this chapter was to highlight the necessity and complexity of questioning in everyday life, as well as to inform the reader of different types of questions and their various contexts. 

It was possible to identify three inherent themes throughout:

  1. Questions as a catalyst for conversation;
  2. Types of questions and their application;
  3. Patterns of/structure of questioning.

Whilst the chapter was highly interesting and informative, Hargie makes a number of valid claims.  One of these is that questions are at the heart of the majority of daily human interactions, which he skilfully reinforces with reference to a number of scholars, including Mokros and Aahkus.  He also provides a lengthy list of situations in which the skill of questioning is prevalent: in TV quiz shows, courtrooms and radio interviews, to name but a few.

A point made by the author which I found particularly interesting (and which I also agree with) is that questions can act as a pretext to success or failure.  Whether part of a police interrogation or a doctor’s consultation, the presentation and subsequent interpretation of questions by an individual can ultimately play a huge part in the outcome of their situation.

However, whilst Hargie makes a valid point in regards to IRF (Initiation, Response and Follow-up) structures of questioning in classrooms, I have to admit that I disagree.  Whilst this method of questioning may still be in use in a small number of schools, it can be observed that simply regurgitating information learned by rote is becoming less common.  A number of teachers are now able to tailor questions in such a manner as to encourage discussion, questioning and instil deeper understanding of subject material within their pupils at any age.

It is also worth noting that Hargie poses the idea questions ‘playing a crucial role’ in learning and that such methods allow children to ‘make sense of their surroundings’.  This is subtly reflective of Piaget’s concept, where children take part in ‘accommodation’ of new knowledge so as to build a relevant ‘schema’ (ultimately as a result of questioning).

Overall, the chapter was a fascinating insight into the complexity of questions and their pivotal role in everyday conversation, as well as their role in building understanding at any age.



Hargie, O (2011) Skilled Interpersonal Communication: Research, Theory and Practice.  5th ed.  London: Routledge

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