Volume 5, Article 3

Solution-Focused Scaling Questions: Time Taken, Words Written, Expectancy and Commitment
Adam Abdulla

Citation: Abdulla, A. (2024). Solution-Focused Scaling Questions: Time Taken, Words Written, Expectancy and Commitment. International Journal of Coaching Psychology, 5, 3, 1-15.

Processing dates: Submitted: 12 November 2023; Resubmitted: 21 February 2024; Accepted: 4 March 2024; Published: 11 June 2024

Volume 5, Article 3


Background/Aims/Objectives: Scaling questions are arguably the most commonly asked questions in solution-focused coaching. However, hardly any experimental research has isolated these questions. Moreover, most studies of solution-focused questions involve students only and no studies have examined whether gender is a moderator. The present study addressed these deficiencies.

Methods/Methodology: In two survey experiments English-speaking adults around the world (Total N = 628) were randomly assigned either to a scaling/solution-focused condition or to a binary/problem-focused condition. Participants were asked to identify a ‘problem’ area in their lives. Dependent variables included expectancy (the extent to which individuals expect to have more success), commitment (the extent to which individuals are committed to having more success), time taken and number of words written.

Results: Participants responding to written scaling/solution-focused questions spent more time and wrote more words than participants responding to binary/problem-focused questions. Experiment 1 suggested that scaling questions have a positive effect on expectancy in males (but not females). However, Experiment 2 yielded little evidence of any such effect. Age was negatively associated with expectancy. Expectancy was positively associated with commitment.

Discussion: Solution-focused scaling questions may elicit more engagement than problemfocused/binary questions. However, they apparently have little immediate effect on expectancy and commitment, although responses do predict expectations of future success. Older individuals apparently have lower expectations of success than younger individuals.

Conclusion: Scaling questions may be useful in encouraging individuals to think, eliciting more detailed responses and predicting expectancy of success. However, coaching psychologists should not rely on scaling questions to enhance expectancy (or commitment) in the short term. Older coachees may need to develop expectancy in order to experience (goal) commitment.

Keywords: solution-focused coaching questions; problem-focused coaching questions; scaling questions; expectancy; commitment; engagement

Adam Abdulla is Associate Lecturer at Robert Gordon University, Garthdee House, Garthdee Road, Aberdeen, AB10 7QB, Scotland, UK
Email: a.abdulla1@rgu.ac.uk