“You” Questions for Audience-Centered Contribution

An effective audience-centered program or media product will use an intentional hierarchy of dialogic questions, paired with dialogic techniques, to invite audience participation. With dialogic questions, there are no right or wrong answers or assumptions, because the questions are not based in factual answers, but rather in the unique thoughts and perspectives of audience experience and relevance. These questions will propel the exploration of the product’s essential theme question.

Dialogic questions are…

  • Inviting: People can respond with their feelings and their thoughts.
  • Experiential: The only “right” answer comes from the lived experience of each participant (ORACLE)
  • Non-judgmental: No embedded cultural, political, or ideological assumptions.
  • Inclusive: Anyone could have something valuable to say – whatever their age, race, gender, or level of education may be.
  • Generative: Can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no”, or a platitude. Generate robust discussion or examples.

The most important characteristic of a dialogic question can be remembered by thinking of the word ORACLE — the Only Right Answer Comes from the Lived Experience of the audience. To ask ORACLE questions, always provide an inclusive invitation to the audience by using “you” or “your.”

Examples of possible dialogic questions:

  • Who in your life first shaped your relationship with the nature?
  • What impact does immigration have on your daily life?
  • When have you had to give up something you love?
  • What does the word “citizen” mean to you?
  • When asked where you’re from, how do you answer & why do you answer that way?
  • Where do you feel safest in the world? Why?
  • When have you witnessed someone being treated unfairly?
  • When have you had to show courage in your life?

How to use dialogic questions to organize your product — As you are developing an interpretive product, brainstorm a list of potential dialogic questions and beta test them with your colleagues to be sure the questions meet the criteria above. Then select questions to create an organizational structure or scaffold for your product, starting with questions that are easiest for the audience to answer, before progressing to more challenging questions. You’ll also determine what techniques to use to engage the audience with your questions, and then select appropriate content about your topic/resource to provide context and connect to your site. See the Arc of Dialogue model and the Museum Hack model for two methodologies to scaffold your product.

Looking For More on Audience Centered Experiences?

Audience Centered Experience Button - Two Pictogram Visitors talking to a pictogram rangerYou can find much more self-guided learning and all of the materials for making yourself an ACE in the Audience Centered Experience Interpretation workbook.

Interpretive Leadership button - a pictogram ranger leading a group of other rangers higherYou can find links to seasonal lesson plans which support this emerging skill set in the Audience Centered Experience Trainers’ Guide.

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  2. Lots of information and a valuable resource as we move along and learn most about how and what to question in our presentations. I’ve downloaded these valuable resources for future use.

  3. In addition to the very good suggestions on this page, you can turn statements into dialogic questions. From the examples above, Playing in the woods behind my house first shaped my relationship with nature. DQ: Who or what in your life first shaped your relationship with nature? Statement: I have reached out to organizations who help immigrants reconnect with their families. DQ: What impact does immigration have on your daily life.

    If through understanding and self awareness, you find that statements are easier to start in developing your program, you may be able to turn your statements into dialogic questions.


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