Most trainers have likely heard about the importance of asking questions during training to engage the attendees and shift them from attendees to participants. If you are going to ask a question however, you need to wait and allow people the opportunity to answer. Their answer will likely open the door to additional questions to explore their thought process or to bring other people into the discussion.
I have seen a couple of video clips recently of experienced and extremely knowledgeable instructors who were asking rapid fire questions to the class without waiting for anyone to answer. Within a second of asking the question, they gave everyone the answer. It reminded me of the frustration I experienced in that type of training over the years. If you are going to do that, then drop the façade of the question and just tell people the information. Asking and then immediately answering is more likely to result in disengagement as people will quickly learn that they do not have to think about or reflect on the question because the instructor is going to give the answer anyway. In addition to disengagement, it also tends to lead to little or no learning and retention or the ability to recall and apply the information being delivered.
Does it take patience to wait for the answers? Yes. Is that silence often uncomfortable? Yes? Does it take more time to wait for, and discuss the answers? Yes. Does it require some skill to facilitate discussions around the answers? Yes. Might it mean that you can cover less information in the sessions? Perhaps. Does it have a greater likelihood that learning, understanding and retention of the material will take place? Yes. Does it enhance the ability of the participants to recall and apply the information after the training? Yes.
The use of questions in training can be a powerful tool for engagement and learning. When well used questions:
- Cause the participants to think and engage in effortful retrieval.
- Help guide participants to the self-discovery of the answers.
- Provide the opportunity for participants to learn to articulate their answers to the questions.
- Allow the person asking the question to learn, the person answering the question to learn and the people listening to the discussion to learn.
- Lead to more questions and a deeper exploration of the topic.
- Reveal the link between the topic being discussed and other topics helping to break down the silos of information and help participants connect the dots.
- Help to reveal areas where we lack knowledge or understanding.
- Help inspire the pursuit of new knowledge and greater understanding.
The use of questions in training can be a powerful tool for engagement and learning when they are used effectively. If you are going to ask questions, which you should, be sure to wait for the answers. Your patience will benefit everyone.
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