Useful Questions for Dialogue Facilitation

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These questions model the kinds of questions a discussion facilitator might ask students in order to prompt deeper engagement with challenging topics. They are written to be highly adaptable and open-ended and are appropriate for student-centered discussion facilitation.


  • To provide instructors with models of questioning that encourage students to engage more deeply with the content and one another.
  • To help instructors who are new to student-centered pedagogy familiarize themselves with that approach in a practical, easily implemented way.


These questions are highly adaptable to most discussions, and are organized by the function of the question (e.g. challenge questions, relational questions, diagnostic questions, etc.). These models will be most useful for instructors who are new to teaching student-centered courses. Instructors should familiarize themselves with these questions in order to apply this type of engaged dialogue facilitation in their courses.


  • These questions are not intended to build on one another, so would not be of use as a discussion guide. Rather, they are models of the type of questioning that will encourage student engagement.
  • Some questions are more vulnerable than others and may be uncomfortable for students to answer. Instructors should use their best judgment to determine if students are prepared/comfortable with that level of vulnerability.

Useful Questions for Dialogue Facilitation Resource

Things to keep in mind when posing the following questions: those receiving them may not speak English as a first language, so please keep in mind your pace of speaking, and the words you use, (for example, colloquialisms or IGR dialogue language); please be sensitive to disability issues (for example, using the words “stand” or “hear”)

Exploratory Questions—Probe basic knowledge

What do you think about ________?

How does _________ make you feel?

What bothers/concerns/confuses you the most about _____________?

What are some ways we might respond to ________________?

Open-ended Questions—that don’t require a detailed or specific kind of response

What is your understanding of __________?

What do you want to know about ____________?

What is the first thing you think about in relation to _____________?

What are some questions you have about ____________?

State one image/scene/event/moment from your experience that relates to ___________?

Challenge Questions—Examine assumptions, conclusions, and interpretations

What can we infer/conclude from _______?

Does _____ remind you of anything?

What principle do you see operating here?

What does this help you explain?

How does this relate to other experiences or things you already knew?

Relational Questions—Ask for comparisons of themes, ideas, or issues

Do you see a pattern here?

How do you account for ______?

What was significant about ______?

What connections to you see?

What does ________ suggest to you?

Is there a connection between what you’ve just said and what ______ was saying earlier?

Cause and Effect Questions—Ask for causal relationships between ideas, actions, or events

How do you think _______ relates or causes _________?

What are some consequences of ___________________?

Where does ___________ lead?

What are some pros and cons of _________________?

What is likely to be the effect of _________________?

Extension Questions—Expand the discussion

What do the rest of you think?

How do others feel?

What did you find noteworthy about this comment?

How can we move forward?

Can you give some specific examples of _________________?

How would you put that another way?

Hypothetical Questions—Pose a change in the facts or issues

What if _________ were from a different _________, how would that change things?

Would it make a difference if we were in a __________ society/culture?

How might this dialogue be different if ____________?

What might happen if we were to ____________?

How might your life be different if ___________?

Diagnostic Questions—Probe motives or causes

What brings you to say that?

What do you mean?

What led you to that conclusion?

Priority Questions—Seek to identify the most important issue

From all that we’ve talked about, what is the most important concept you see?

Considering the different ideas in the room, what do you see as  the most critical issue?

What do you find yourself resonating with the most?

If you had to pick just one topic to continue talking about, what would it be?

Process Questions—Elicits satisfaction/buy-in/interest levels

Is this where we should be going?

How are people feeling about the direction of this dialogue?

What perspectives are missing from this dialogue?

Everyone has been ________ for awhile, why?

How would you summarize this dialogue so far?

How might splitting into groups/pairs affect our discussion?

Analytical Questions—Seek to apply concepts or principles to new or different situations

What are the main arguments for _______________?

What are the assumptions underlying ______________?

What questions arise for you as you think about ______________?

What implications does ___________ have? (for _____________?)

Does this idea challenge or support what we’ve been talking about?

How does this idea/contribution add to what has already been said?

Summary Questions—Elicit syntheses, what themes or lessons have emerged?

Where are we?

If you had to pick two themes from this dialogue, what would they be?

What did you learn?

What benefits did we gain today?

What remains unresolved? How can we better process this?

Based on our dialogue, what will you be thinking about after you leave?

Let me see if I understand what we’ve talked about so far…  What have I missed?

Ok, this is what I’ve heard so far…  Does anyone have anything to correct or add?

Action Questions—Call for a conclusion or action

How can we use that information?

What does this new information say about our own actions/lives?

How can you adapt this information to make it applicable to you?

How will you do things differently as a result of this meeting?

What are our next steps?

What kind of support do we need as we move forward?

How does this dialogue fit into our bigger plans?

Evaluative Questions—Gauge emotions, anxiety levels, what is going well or not

Is there anything else you would like to talk about?

How are you feeling about this now?

What was a high point for you? A low point?

Where were you engaged? Disengaged?

What excited you? Disappointed you?


Adapted for use by The Program on Intergroup Relations, University of Michigan; 2010.

Resource hosted by LSA Inclusive Teaching Initiative, University of Michigan (