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Training Consultants: Learn By Asking Questions

training consultant reporterWith my extended family, friends and coworkers I’m often the guy people come to if they want to hear what is going on with anyone else. If you want to know who is eating all organic foods, who recently purchased a new car, what someone is feeding their dog, who has seen Newsies on Broadway, or whose baby is currently teething I’m the guy to ask. After I share such information I often get the question “How did you find that out?” That has been a concerning question to me, mainly because I don’t want to be a creepy Facebook/LinkedIn stalker or the office/neighborhood gossip. But as I’ve reflected on it, a larger percentage of what I know about people is a result of me asking questions.

Instructional Designers and training consultants often spend a great deal of time trying to formulate the perfect questions for learners. Finding ways to ask learners questions throughout a training using knowledge checks, and making question more meaningful by providing real world application is time well spent. But lately I’ve been wondering if we should be spending more time trying to find ways to get our learners to ask questions.

My coworkers and friends may not always remember the specific questions I ask them or what they tell me, but I tend to remember their responses because I was interested enough to ask the question. Similarly when learners ask questions about a topic or seek out answers they are more invested in what they are learning.
Getting learners to ask questions and seek out information can be challenging, and it can seem even more difficult when thinking about how to do it in web based trainings or when the training is mandatory and the content focuses on a policy or procedure. Yet it is still possible; it just takes a little more creativity. Recently I’ve had the opportunity to work on a course that focuses on leadership principles. Instead of simply presenting the principles we have created detailed scenarios that allow learners to make decisions and see the results of their choices. Learners are able to view multiple options and additional reference materials if they desire, as if they were able to ask questions of their friends or colleagues. This design makes the course feel less like a structured training and more like a personal adventure, encouraging learners to seek out information while still covering the same content.

So how do you think we can get learners to ask more questions and seek out more answers? What have you done in the past that has worked well? And since I’m known for being “in the known”… Do you have any news I should be aware of?

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Eric Stokes

More from Eric Stokes

Eric is an instructional design lead at Allen. He holds a Master of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences. When Eric is not heads down in corporate training development he loves to read and visit Disneyland.

One Response to “Training Consultants: Learn By Asking Questions”

  1. Meredith 5.21.2013 at 16:19 # Reply

    Most common question Eric asks, “hey! what’s going on?!?” You’d think it wouldn’t be an effective question, but the repetitive question begs the one answering to be creative, say something new. I’m sure he learns very interesting information with this technique.

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