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The power of questionspixel.gif (807 bytes)

pixel.gif (807 bytes) How questions can be used in training
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IT'S EASY TO UNDERESTIMATE just how powerful questions can be. They serve so many important purposes in training:

To gather information
If you need some data about the user, you ask questions like:

  • what is your name?
  • are you male or female?

To create a profile
Often you will use questions to help develop a profile of the user or to have users gain some awareness of themselves. You may use a questionnaire, inventory or self-assessment test:

  • in this situation, how would you normally react?
  • which of the following words best describes you?

To stimulate reflection
An important part of learning is to relate new material to past experience. Questions can stimulate a pause for thought:

  • have you ever been in a situation in which … ?
  • what tends to happen when … ?

To gather views and opinions
If you’ve used a case study or some form of group exercise, you may want to follow this up by asking the user’s opinion about some aspect of what they’ve seen:

  • what should she do?
  • why do you think this happened?
  • how important is this?

To gather ideas
A common training activity is brainstorming. You may ask questions like:

  • what are the ways in which … ?
  • how could you avoid this happening?

To reinforce learning
Questions may be used as part of a drill and practice activity to help learners master a new skill, or as a form of repetitive exercise to aid memory retention:

  • what is the square root of 49?
  • who is the Prime Minister?

To assess learning
Questions may be used before, during or after a course to assess the level of learning attained by the learner. These questions will usually be closely related to the learning objectives of the course:

  • email is an example of what type of communication activity?
  • if the red light starts to flash, what does this indicate?

To stimulate action
Questions can be used to help bring about the transfer of learning:

  • what steps will you be taking to act on what you have learned?
  • what will you do differently as a result of this course?

To obtain feedback
And at key review points or at the end of the course, you will use questions to obtain feedback:

  • how would you rate the … ?
  • which subjects did you find the most interesting?

Life beyond questions
Of course, questioning is not the only way of achieving the above. There are many more techniques in the training toolkit:

  • simulation
  • discussion
  • role plays
  • case studies
  • group exercises
  • live practice
  • and many more

Nor are all question types suited to interactive self-study. Many questions need much longer answers, which are harder (if not impossible) for a computer to react to. In addition, some questions may be posed by a computer but responded to away from the computer, say a research task, a pause to think, an essay or paper to write, or discussion with other learners (whether on or off-line).

questions as a training activity

The diagram explains how the questioning covered in this article fits into the broader training picture:

  • questioning is one of many training activities
  • interactive self-study is a form of online learning, which in turn is another type of training activity
  • questioning overlaps with online learning and, to a lesser extent, with interactive self-study; it is the latter that we are concerned with here

Having narrowed down the scope to such an extent, are we left with anything of real importance? We certainly are. In interactive self-study, it is questioning that provides the most meaningful interactivity, that is the most powerful weapon in facilitating online learning.

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                                                     Fastrak Consulting Ltd, 1998. All rights reserved.                                Last revised 18/4/99