Asking Good Questions: Why Teachers Should Listen to the Tim Ferriss Show
I always thought I was going be a 9th grade teacher. At that age…14, 15… there seems to be a lot of important forks in the road.–Tim Ferriss from Podcast #255 How to Turn Failure into Success
Tim Ferriss is an entrepreneur, writer, angel investor and podcaster extraordinaire. A human dynamo with a child-like curiously and Stoic self-discipline, Tim has built himself into a multi-media giant.
Each of his massively successful books Tools of Titans, The 4-Hour Chef, The 4-Hour Body, The 4-Hour Work Week scored long runs on The New York Times Bestseller List.
The Tim Ferriss Show started as an experiment in 2014. However, it’s now one of the top podcasts on iTunes, collecting over 150 million downloads to date. Tim’s purpose is to “deconstruct would class performers” attempting to learn the habits and philosophies of ultra successful people including Arnold Schwarzengger, Jamie Foxx, Seth Godin and Brene Brown.
Amazingly, despite it’s success, the podcast remains a low-budget, lightly-edited production. An undecorated classroom, if you will.
How does Tim do it? What’s his secret sauce?
Tim Ferriss, like an effective teacher, asks his guests really good questions.
The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.– Tim Ferriss
Tim constructs questions that reveal the deep truths and stories of his guests. By designing, then asking well-crafted questions–the answers are authentic and rich and make for great entertainment.
For teachers, it’s imperative to understand that if you want your students to elicit meaningful responses, you have to craft meaningful questions.
When classroom questions lack quality, student responses will lack quality.
Often, the educational wheel is clogged with buzz words and en vogue practices. Progression is great but curiosity coupled with crafting and asking good, meaningful questions is the ancient foundation on which education was built.
The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.–Socrates
The Open Question Effect
Asking “closed questions” or questions with finite response are good to assess comprehension and retention.
Who was the first President of the United Sates?
“Open questions” or questions with infinite response are necessary to increase engagement, encourage discussion and inspire critical thinking.
What do you think George Washington was feeling when he was nominated to be the first President of the United States?
Open questions requires students to work. To answer an open question, you may have to mine through your own contradictions to find the most honest answer. It’s from this mining where genuine and meaningful answers are discovered.
Maybe George Washington was excited at the prospect but, I have to think, he was overwhelmed, and possibly discourage, by being the first president of a new nation.
Tim demonstrates how open questions spark honest and rich conversation. Most of his published podcast run for well over an hour. However, his unedited conversations, like two old friends just talking, last for hours. (A recent conversation with ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen lasted 3 hours.) It’s the flexibility of these open questions that propel these marathon conversations.
It’s near impossible to fake interest.
And students know when teachers are or are not interested in their ideas. When students feel this interest, they’re more willing to share themselves, become healthy risk takers and subsequently, develop into more creative and critical thinkers.
The art of listening is the most fundamental way to honor any relationship.
Tim Ferriss models that to be a good interviewer, you must be an active listener. Though many of his questions are scripted, many are not. Many questions, follow-up and clarifying questions, are spawned from the rhythms of the conversations.
As a teacher, like a good interviewer, you must invest yourself into your classroom conversation. You must listen in order to ask follow-up and clarifying questions. By actively listening to students, teachers build and strengthen the student-teacher relationship. And even if you have 30 students in your class, if you actively listen to them, give their voice ample attention, the learning experience becomes a personal one for each student.
A great interview materializes when the interviewer is willing to be expose their own vulnerabilities.
Tim Ferriss is unafraid to share with his guest (and millions of listeners) his own failures, limitations and struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts. This vulnerability builds a trust with his guest (and his audience) and encourages all listeners to share their own personal struggles.
For teachers, it’s imperative that you present your vulnerability as a strength. A classroom that embraces vulnerability, fosters risk taking and supports authentic student-teacher discussions.
Our vulnerability, our imperfections, establish trust with students and creates a positive classroom culture.
Give vulnerability a shot. Give discomfort its due. Because I think he or she who is willing to be the most uncomfortable is not only the bravest, but rises the fastest.– Tim Ferriss
Call to Action
Listening to podcasts on your commute to and from school is great way to boost creativity and cultivate new ideas.
The Tim Ferriss Show exemplifies the power of good questions. Tim demonstrates how well-crafted questions along with actively listening inspire people to share more of themselves.
In terms of education, student success often hinges on a teachers ability to construct and ask meaningful questions that encourage reflection and critical thinking– two essential practices for student growth.
Below you will find 7 of Tim’s best questions. See if you can borrow, shape and scale any of them to fit your classroom and content. Theses questions may serve as interesting writing prompts or discussion starters:
- Who or what is your darkest teacher?
- What’s one thing that you do that people think is crazy and why do you do it?”
- If you could relive one moment in your life, which would you choose and why?
- Who is the first person that you think of when you hear “success”? Why?
- If you could have a giant billboard with one message on it, to inspire thousands of people, what would it say?
- What have you changed your mind about in the last few years and why?
- How has a failure set you up for future success?
Since you’re here…check out The Write on Fight on Teachers Spotlight. A monthly interview with an awesome educator who is actively shaping and inspiring young minds.
This month’s interview is with history teacher and blogger Julie Boulton.
“I love to bring stories to light that might have been forgotten otherwise.”– Julie Boulton