Training Tips for asking Questions
It is always dangerous for a trainer to be is ‘stuck in the bubble’.
This is when you are delivering the content of your training without really knowing whether it is making sense to the students, whether they are finding it too hard or too easy, or whether it even seems relevant to them.
There is one guaranteed way out of the bubble and that is to ask questions - and there are so many different types of questions at your disposal.
If you are not regularly checking in with your students, you will have no idea if the training is doing its job.
By asking a question you can turn a one-way flow of information into a two-way communication.
One-way traffic can be very one-dimensional and very hard work for the students to engage with.
As trainers, we need to be constantly changing the rhythm of our delivery:
introducing activities; gaining feedback; initiating discussions; sharing stories.
If the rhythm of the training never changes it becomes mesmerising for the student, which of course is the main problem with any training that depends too much on PowerPoint slides (– next slide, same voice, next slide, same voice, next slide same voice).
Sometimes you may have limited control over the format of your training materials. You might have to use a company presentation that is very one-dimensional, but even here you can do an enormous amount of good by regularly interspersing a few questions so that you can change the flow from
listen, listen, listen to
listen, reflect, consider.
Maybe you are not looking for a spoken answer to your questions:
‘How would this work for you?’
‘Does this match your experience?
‘How might you apply this?’
If you feel you have been speaking too long, then maybe you could pause to allow a few moments of student interaction, and actually respond to the questions, but even if they are thrown out as rhetorical questions that require no spoken answer, you are still breaking the flow of information and making the student think.
Don’t risk getting stuck in your bubble with your students suffering from what Jerry Weissman calls MEGO
(my eyes glaze over), always reach out and break the rhythm by asking a few questions
10 Types of Questions to use in a training session
The danger with most training is that the gap between the trainer and the students is never properly bridged. The trainer spends the whole session broadcasting to the room, speaking at the students, rather than communicating with them and the students passively accept all the words washing over them, while probably retaining very little.
Thermostat questions are essential for all trainers who want to interact more completely with their class. You may not necessarily want to break your flow completely by having the students interrupt you while you are presenting, but by asking a few thermostat questions every now and then, you can make sure that the audience is still with you.
A thermostat question is a little ‘bounce-back’ question that checks the ‘temperature’ in the room.
Does that make sense?
Are you all with me?
Are we OK with that?
Regular use of thermostat questions brings the students back from totally passive to interactive n- even if they are just nodding in response to your question.
This is not a full question; it is merely an add-on, tagged to the end of a statement. Question tags can also be sprinkled throughout the training in a similar way to thermostat questions.
It is another way of creating a little bit of interaction and maybe even winning a couple of nods from the students. For instance…
We could all choose to use this type of question more often, couldn’t we?
It would probably improve interaction, wouldn’t it?
That makes sense, doesn’t it?
In your head you are probably realising that you are obliged to respond, aren’t you?
and once you start using them, it can be very hard to stop… can’t it?
These are typically questions that start with
‘What, why, when, how, where or who?’
These are the ideal interaction questions.
So rather than saying:
‘Then you do this.’
‘What do you think happens next?
‘How do we move on from here?’
‘Why do you think this comes next?’
Not only are you interacting with the student, you are also finding out where they are, because if they cannot answer, maybe they do not yet understand; if they answer incorrectly, you can guide them; if they answer correctly yo might be able to move ahead more quickly.
These typically start with a verb and probably have a Yes/No, Right/Wrong answer:
‘Can we do this?’
Is this a good idea?’
Have we prepared everything properly?
The danger here (and this is something that I would go into more detail on in a training session) is that the student’s answer could be ‘wrong’ and all that implies in terms of feeling exposed, stupid, or even picked upon. If we have established the foundations of a good ‘safe’ environment at the beginning of the day, this is less of a danger, but always make sure if you are asking a question that could put the student in the wrong, that you have weighed up the potential consequences of hurt ego or exposure.
Typically after a break rather than just steaming on to the next section, it might be worth recapping to make sure the learning is being taken on board. This can be as formal or as informal as you like or as suits the outcomes of the training.
Depending on whether I want to encourage a slightly nervous group or challenge a more confident group, I might vary the mix of questions.
If the students are nervous, I would probably ask a few fairly simple questions that cover the key points of the previous section of training, giving me the opportunity to congratulate them on how well they are doing when they get them right.
Otherwise, I might start with a couple of easy questions to offer encouragement and then a couple of harder ones to show them that there is still more to learn.
On very rare occasions if I felt my students were a bit full of themselves, I might ask mainly challenging questions to let them know that ‘they are not quite as smart as they are making out!’
Multiple Choice Questions
This probably brings back horrible memories of school exams!
Therefore you would be more likely to use multiple choice questions in individual tests, rather than open to the group. Again it is up to you as the trainer to decide how serious or light-hearted you want to make the test. Multiple choice questions are a good way of testing a lot of knowledge in a short period of time and are best suited to training where there are a lot of procedures of steps and where there are right or wrong answers. You would never use a multiple choice for:
‘What do you think…?’ or
‘What would your approach be?’ questions.
With more complex learning outcomes, you might want to prepare a sequence of questions, like going through a maze.
‘Would you do A or B?’
‘You could do, but what would be the danger?’
- ‘They might not understand B.’
‘Absolutely – so let’s stick with A! Now if we choose A, would it be better to go to C or D?’
‘Very good! But why would you choose C?’….etc
Questions for Self-reflection
Either on their own or in pairs, you could ask the students to reflect on what we have just covered and consider how they could apply it to their roles.
Beware of coming across as manipulative, but a series of questions that lead to the desired answer is a good way of embedding a strategy or an answer.
Going back to our sequence questions:
rather than stating out of nowhere:
‘The best final step is ‘E’
you could lead the students to that conclusion:
‘So we have established - Should we do A or B?’
‘Correct,- which means the next step is….?’
‘Absolutely. Then what is the only realistic final option?’
Questions to facilitate discussion
This could really be virtually any type of question, but the purpose is to take the focus of the training session away from you, the trainer, and throw it out to the students.
‘OK – here is a question that I throw out to you, which might be worth us discussing:
‘In reality, how often does this sort of situation arise?’
‘Do we feel that we are getting the support we need to complete our tasks?’
‘Is this only relevant in the office, or is it just as important in the field?’
Ask questions – lots of questions
- you are learning
- you know where the students are
- you are maintaining engagement