Power of the Question
Lesson 4: Hypothetical Questions
Ask students if they have ever been involved in a campaign, run for student council or been elected as an officer. Discuss slogans and promises they heard from candidates. O’Donnell suggests that a campaign is the testing ground for ideas. Ask students to research one political candidate and the platform he or she ran on.
In video four, O’Donnell suggests that hypothetical questions are to be used sparingly; for political candidates it is a chance to outline their platform and desire to serve. Show video four and then have students use the candidates who students researched in the warm-up activity, ask students to use their research to develop several hypothetical questions. Have students brainstorm words that might indicate a hypothetical questions (What if, what would you do)
Hypothetical question example: If a new medicine were developed that would cure arthritis but caused a fatal reaction in 1 percent of the prescribed patients, would you want it to be released to the public? You discover that your wonderful one-year-old child is, because of a mix-up at the hospital, not yours. What would you do? Would you want to exchange the child to try to correct the “mistake”? Would you accept $1,000,000 in U.S. dollars, to leave the U.S.?
Some people think hypothetical questions encourage creative thinking, while others think they bog down productive communication. Explore these two opinions by watching these two resources:
A student-created video focuses on creative and forward thinking responses that certain types of questions can foster.
Dianna Booher, a consultant who helps professionals develop effective communications, shares why hypothetical questions don’t work.
In small groups have students discuss the two videos. Explore the arguments for and against using hypothetical questions. Where do students stand on this issue? In what circumstances might hypothetical questions be helpful? In might circumstances might they inhibit conversation and discourse? Share incidents in our lives when hypothetical questions have been helpful and other times when they are too broad or counterproductive.
Research to find inventors whose invention or work is the result of a hypothetical question to generate their research and inventions. Check out Invent America’s competition and other similar competitions to determine how a hypothetical question might work to spawn ideas.