Keywords: Answer-seeking Questions

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Answer-seeking Questions

Designers are usually required to find workable solutions, rather than making robust truth claims, or theories. So it is debatable whether a sceptical, evidence-based reasoning approach (used by most scholars and scientists) is of primary importance to them. Nonetheless, we live in a quasi-scientific culture, in which it seems 'normal' for school examiners to frame answer-seeking questions that ignore the author’s (i.e. examinee's) deeper interests, understandings, skill-set, role, or standpoint in the broader framework or context. While answer-seeking questions may have some relevance for design tasks, it may be mainly to augment the primary, pragmatic task of making things work.

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Recognising an answer-seeking question

A good test of an answer-seeking question is to ask oneself what kind of reply would fully satisfy it. If it can be written or spoken it may be an 'answer-seeking question'. If not, it may be an outcome-seeking question. What an 'answer-seeking question' invites is one of a small set of predictable (i.e. 'stable', 'durable', 'certain' or 'tacitly agreed') responses that are expected (i.e. designed) to be judgeable as either 'true' or 'false'. One extreme version of this is the genre of a court room interrogation, in which a lawyer brings about an admission of guilt by framing questions that elicit a reduced set of (potentially incriminating) options. The type of knowledge that is elicited by an answer-seeking question is also referred to as declarative knowledge. There are many categories of answer-seeking question (see Wikipedia entry).

ExampleLikely minimum outcome
What is the name of x?invites the respondent to offer a specific name
When did x happen?invites the respondent to give a specific time
Did you do x?invites the respondent to give a yes, or no answer
Can we design better ways to travel? grey-spacer.png invites the respondent to give a yes or no answer