Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

Collaborative Communication

Imagine posing a question to a group of your students or peers and receiving silence and stares.  By comparison, imagine posing a question to inspire conversation, but the question yields so many responses that it is difficult to see how they connect.  How are we to make sense and connect these thoughts and interactions?  How can we re-posture our conversations to facilitate better outcomes?  Collaborative Communication (or CC) consists of several tools for re-framing conversations.  This week’s BRIGHT group meeting focused on one CC tool, Asking Questions.  The meeting was led by Postdoc Robert Jacobsen, who completed CC training in the spring.

Before the meeting, the BRIGHT group read about Humble Inquiry.  Humble Inquiry consists, “of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, [and] of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person” (Schein, p. 21).  The reading described several scenarios taken from the author’s life and multiple outcomes based on the types of questions asked.  Humble Inquiry largely consists of open-ended questions, as opposed to close-ended questions that have binary answers (e.g., yes or no).  The outcome of Humble Inquiry is trust, stronger relationships, and collaborations.

The meeting began with an exercise in Enhanced Dialogue, developed by Dr. Ferlin McGaskey, assistant director of the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center.  In this exercise, each group member was invited to share their definition of the scientific method.  After everyone shared, the group members asked open-ended questions to each other to encourage elaboration.  After a questions was asked, the respondent was encouraged to “ask back,” to see what their colleague was thinking based on their response.  Group members were then asked to make connections among what was shared and build new understanding based on the content of the dialogue.  Finally, members were asked to summarized what was learned.  This type of discussion was praised for allowing everyone to be heard, but was also challenging to implement because of its predefined structure.  Overall, the group appreciated the new experience.

Reference: What is CC? Collaborative Communication Practices (2017)

Schein, E. H. (2013). Humble inquiry: The gentle art of asking instead of telling. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Ferlin McGaskey, PhD