Tip #388: In Praise of Participants Who Continually Think and Question
“Who questions much, shall learn much, and retain much.” Francis Bacon
Every now and then, there is a participant in a training session who asks thoughtful question after question. In those instances, it can be a real challenge for a trainer to stay focused on the lesson and not get frustrated or impatient. However, participant questions that are asked out of a sincere desire to learn and understand can benefit the participant, the trainer and the rest of the learners in several ways.
Participants who continually think and question force the trainer to give better explanations, provide greater clarity and consider alternative perspectives.
1. Better Explanations
Participant questions can be a useful indication that the trainer is operating on an unconsciously competent level. This happens when trainers know a topic so well that they make connections and follow steps automatically, without any thought to what they are doing. As a result, they neglect to mention certain pieces of information because that information is already hot-wired into their brains.
Technical experts are particularly likely to have this tendency, although any trainer who has performed or taught a procedure or the same information over and over again can also fall prey to this error of omission.
Thoughtful participant questions should cause trainers to slow down, rewind, and reteach more carefully, paying conscious and deliberate attention so that they provide all of the information that the learners require.
2. Greater Clarity
Sometimes, the examples or explanations that a trainer chooses to use are somewhat vague or confusing. In such cases, participant questions indicate a real need for trainers to give careful consideration to coming up with better and clearer explanations.
The best examples and explanations highlight the critical attributes of the new learning. These critical attributes are what distinguish what is being learned from everything else. When trainers take the time to recognize and articulate critical attributes, they are less likely to gloss over key information.
3. Alternative Perspectives
Participant questions can reframe how the trainer and the other learners perceive the content under discussion. Because the learners are viewing the information with new eyes, they may see things differently than the trainer does. Participant insights can shed new light on a topic, open up a previously unexplored variation on a theme, or generate an entirely new approach to a situation.
This is one of the real gifts of participant-centered training programs: when participants are free to ask questions, the trainer also gets to learn and grow.
Thank goodness for those participants who continually ask questions. Their desire to understand and explore a topic from a variety of perspectives reflects their strong commitment to learning. Their questions, and the answers and discussion that they generate, can result in better and deeper learning for everyone involved.
May your learning be sweet.