It is true, facilitative questions are not the same as “yes or no” questions. They are difficult to form. They require thought, and patience, and perfect poise and timing. They also require knowing exactly what is wrong with the essay, and how it can be fixed. This is hard, especially when you’re reading the essay for the first time (as often students don’t send them to you beforehand, even when asked) or when it is an well written piece. Then there is the task of forming a question that hits at the exact problem you are trying to work with, and planning ahead to start cascades of questions that will eventually lead to an improved essay.
An example of a cascade:
“So how long is this essay supposed to be?”
“Well, she asked for two pages, but my subject was so big I ended up with five. I’m not really sure how to cut it down.”
“Alright, we can work on that. What do you think the point of your argument is?”
“Hmm, I’d say, that because the prompt asks about comparing the two novels, my main point is that both novels discuss taboo topics in order to make an impact on society.”
“Can you show me specifically in the essay where you support that thesis?”
“Yeah, here… here… and here. I have a lot of stuff about abortion too though, because that’s what the first novel was about, and it was shocking.”
“Those points look like they support your thesis well… do you see any spots in this paragraph where you can cut out things that don’t directly support your thesis?”
“Well yeah I guess this sentence on the main character going crazy doesn’t really have to do with anything.”
“Yup, I’d say if you have to cut something, that’d be a good thing to get rid of.”
And so on.
But even so, I’m not sure if I portrayed it correctly. I feel as though facilitative questions are supposed to hit on deeper meanings and themes, and this doesn’t do that.
They also require an in depth knowledge of politeness to be successful. Asking in the wrong way or with the wrong inflection can make the student close you out or not take the question seriously.
Over all, facilitative questions are hard to formulate. That is why we have a practicum: so that we can practice.