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The Power of Questions for Managing Student Relationships

August 27, 2021

We all know asking the right questions is important. The power of effective questions ranges from being able to solve a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes to simply knowing how your students are feeling, and being able to act accordingly. 

So what exactly are effective questions?

Effective questions are high quality inquiries that fundamentally aim to gain insight into another person’s thinking and perception. These questions aren't our own personal views, ideas, opinions or solutions with a question mark added at the end, but instead are questions that focus on receiving high quality information from the other person. That information can then inform the actions you might take by comparing the received data with your own thinking, allowing for working through issues more effectively without the potential for misunderstandings.

‘Ask and you shall receive’ is an important statement to remember, but ‘ask effectively and you shall receive’ is even better. 

What about open-ended questions?

Open-ended questions are another powerful form of questioning, as this gives people the opportunity to feel affirmed. Everyone wants to feel accepted and listened to, and asking open-ended questions is a great way to show someone you value their views and opinions. 

‘When you give me a while, I feel worthwhile’

Effective and open-ended questions can be used to build rapport and develop leadership capability amongst your students. If you have great rapport with your students, the relationship you have with them becomes stronger. Students will feel valued that you have an openness to their views and perceptions, and in turn will be more open to being influenced by you. 

Asking effective questions can also help students to gain clarity in terms of their own thinking. As the leaders of a class, trainers may feel they know with certainty what’s best for their students without asking their students how they feel. However, it’s important to empower students by allowing them to think things through and express themselves through asking them effective questions. In turn, the actions taken based on knowing what everyone is feeling will also be much more effective. 

How do you ask effective questions?

Being able to ask effective questions is a skill. Effective questions inquire, they don’t interrogate. Here are some key points for developing questioning skills:

  • Frame your question in a way that shows sincere and genuine interest
  • Only use closed questions if you want very specific information and facts
  • Try to use an empathetic tone, whether it be spoken or in writing
  • Use questions to encourage problem solving, such as ‘Can you suggest methods to explore to take care of this issue in the future?’

How can you easily implement this with your students?

Surveys are one of the best tools you can use to ask effective questions to your students. Online surveys work with online, blended and in-person learning, and can be automated in your Student Management System (SMS). A good SMS will allow you to create custom surveys to support your learning programs and get valuable info from students, with surveys such as: 

  • Pre-course learning needs questionnaires
  • Post-program evaluations
  • Client satisfaction survey
  • Market research
  • Employee opinion surveys.

Although quantitative questions are important in surveys, such as with custom rating scales, using qualitative questions is where you can make use of effective and open-ended questions. 

aXcelerate surveys
Example survey in aXcelerate


Surveys are great because you can ask students to complete them outside of class or in class, and much can be automated. You can group surveys by business need and map them to the lifecycle of your students, schedule survey activation and notify recipients of the survey due date, and send automatic reminders to complete surveys. In your SMS, surveys can be edited, duplicated and reused, and can display real-time graphical results that can then be turned into quality improvement actions. 

aXcelerate surveys
Example answers to a survey in aXcelerate


Overall, developing the skill of creating and asking effective questions without first giving your own point of view requires practice, but the results are 100% worth it. 


Want a fresh start for your training organisation with a true One System SMS/LMS solution?

aXcelerate is Australia’s number 1 cloud-based Student Management System. We started as an RTO, so we know what’s best for RTOs.

Through many changes over the last 30 years in the VET sector, we’ve helped almost 1000 training organisations thrive with aXcelerate’s One System SMS/LMS solution.

Learn how we can help your training organisation here, or request a demo to see how aXcelerate fits with your organisation here.

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Want to learn more about student engagement? Check out these articles: 

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