#2 WHAT DO YOU SEE THAT MAKES YOU SAY THAT?
This simple follow-up question asks participants to share evidence for what their saying. But the magic in this question is the ‘see’ part – it asks them specifically to look for visual evidence that is based in the object or artwork itself.
I know that ‘‘What makes you say that?’ is a favourite with many – and indeed is a Project Zero Thinking Routine. It’s also part of the Visual Thinking Strategies 3 core questions. It too asks particiaptns to support their interpretations with evidence.
BUT it can be problematic at times – I feel it can sometimes put people on the defensive – like a personal ‘why’ question like ‘why do you think that?’.
I’ve also read an article that discussed avoiding using this question in discussions around sensitive themes because it could reinforce stereotypes by reiteration of a hurtful sentiment.
As an aside, I had a discussion about this with educator Jess Vance on Instagram last year whilst she was writing her book Leading with a Lens of Inquiry and the discussion made it into the book where she suggests some alternatives and notes that ‘as with all questions, our tone and body language impact the way others perceive our inquiries’ So if you use WMYST, it’s worth being aware of some of these thoughts.
So, as a general rule, when working with artworks, I always prefer to use ‘What do you SEE that makes you say that?’ This asks the participant to look specifically for visual evidence based in the artwork itself. The question ‘What are you noticing that makes you say that?’ is similar.
Over time and with continued use of ‘What do you see that makes you say that?’, participants will automatically start supporting their interpretations with evidence without being asked.
Here are some of the other alternatives I use too:
- What are you noticing that makes you say that?
- What evidence can we find in the artwork/object etc for that idea?
- What do you see that informs your ideas?
- What do you see that made you come to that conclusion?
- What evidence can you share (from the artwork) to back up that idea?
- Can you show us where you see that in the artwork?
And more. But none of them are as catchy as ‘What do you see that makes you say that?’ And this, is part of its attraction – it’s memorable and catchy and therefore no thinking is involved on your part to ensure that you are asking participants to support their ideas and interpretations.
And something else that Jess says in Leading with a Lens of Inquiry struck me too when i was thinking about this episode – she says that What Makes you Say That prompts an ‘intentional pause’ and the same is true for ‘What do you See That Makes you Say That?’ too – this pause allows a bit of time and space for the everyone in the group (facilitator, participants and the person who has just spoken) to think about what has just been said and to reflect upon it.
It gives time for the speaker to question their thinking and/or any assumptions they may have made too. And it also allows the facilitator to demonstrate a genuine interest in what the participant has said – it’s a way of saying ‘tell me more about this with some more context’. It stops you automatically moving on to the next comment from someone else and gives a moment to slow down and dig deeper into something someone has said. In essence, it’s a golden question.
So, in summary use What do you see that makes you say that when you want:
- Ask for evidence (particularly visual evidence)
- Slow down the process and avoid a round of quick-fire interpretations
- Listen carefully
- Add depth to a discussion
So, be sure to add ‘What do you see that makes you say that?‘ to your question repertoire. You won’t be sorry.
Notice what effect it has on the discussion and share with me. You can also share with me any other great questions you have for asking for evidence.