Train the Trainer

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Questioning Techniques

Questioning Techniques
Knowing what questions to ask and how to ask them is an art that can be sharpened and perfected. When you ask a question, make sure it's clearly stated and correctly phrased. If learners return blank looks, it could be that the question was poorly worded. In this case, reword the question as you ask it again. After stating the question, wait nine seconds for a response if necessary. This can seem like a long time at first. The silence can feel uncomfortable. However, on average an adult takes three seconds to process a question, an additional three seconds to assess if someone else will answer for them, and three more seconds to gain the courage to respond themselves. The goal is engagement and ownership. These rewards often outweigh how well they might do on anyone question. Stay the course and be supportive.

When a response is given, acknowledge it recognizing the learner's contribution. Be sure to emphasize the correct answer. What you do next will depend on the amount of time you have and the goals you're trying to accomplish. The simplest response is "Thanks John. That's correct" and restate the answer. If a student is close to the correct response, encourage him to elaborate.

Then consider building on the response. You can do this by probing further with a high-level question, perhaps asking why the learner believes the answer to be true. You could also redirect the question to another learner or to the class asking what they think. By building on a response, you can create additional opportunities for learners to contribute to the discussion.

Directing questions

There are several ways to direct a question. You can direct a question to the entire group or to an individual whom you know will be able to answer. If a learner asks a question, you can then redirect that question on to the entire group. If you word a question poorly, you can reword it and ask again. This technique might also be helpful, if the answer you receive is "close" but not quite accurate. Fine-tuning your questioning skills

Use a variety of types and levels of questions. You want to challenge learners and involve them in the learning process. Begin with convergent questions that test learners' recollection of facts. Then progress to divergent questions that require them to synthesize, analyze and evaluate concepts. By asking both types of questions you can monitor learner progress.

Another effective approach is to create an opportunity for learners to ask and answer questions themselves. You can do this through activities that guide learners through a discovery process. These can be group activities where learners can share ideas with each other or independent, self-discovery exercises.

Questions are an especially effective way to allow the participants to take ownership for their learning. If this shift is not allowed to occur in the classroom, many learners won't assume it back in the workplace. Instead, they'll become dependent on other sources of support. Help desks or co-workers take on the role never relinquished in class. Effective questioning builds the learners' confidence in their ability to solve problems for themselves.
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