Just Ask: The Right Questions Fuel vILT Sessions.

May 10, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters

Whether in a face-to-face environment or in the virtual classroom, good facilitators will engage and interact with their learners. Facilitators are taught to use questioning techniques and methods designed to ensure understanding, and encourage participation.

In a face-to-face classroom facilitators can use eye contact, body language, and gestures in addition to different questioning techniques to encourage participants to respond and add to the dialogue throughout the course.

In a virtual space, those cues are not as obvious. The types of questions you ask, and more specifically how you ask them are even more crucial. It goes beyond asking open-ended questions, in most cases you want to extend the conversation and offer opportunities for more participants to get involved.

Below, I’ve outlined a few of the questioning strategies I’ve learned throughout my career. These are not all encompassing, and I invite you to share your own in the comments below.

Questioning Strategies for the vILT Classroom

Asking for the Evidence. The goal with this approach is to encourage your participants to offer evidence for a previous answer or response. Some examples:

  • Why do you think that?
  • How do you know that?
  • What is that based off of?

Asking participants to support their position with more information provides an opportunity for other participants to weigh in with different interpretations, scenarios, or evidence of their own.

Creating Links and Extending. It’s important for your questions to create links to other portions of the session as well as to your participants’ own experiences. Ask your participants to link what is being discussed to previous content or their own situations and challenges. Some examples:

  • How does this concept relate to the case study we covered at the beginning of class?
  • Has this situation we just talked about ever happened to you? How so?
  • Who can share a current workplace example of the challenge we just discussed?

Linking and extending the conversation is imperative for learners to truly benefit from the discussion. It provides an opportunity for the discussion to click, and drives learning and engagement at a whole new level. It makes the content very real.

Using Hypotheticals. There are instances where real life examples may not exist. Asking participants to come up with real life examples in some cases may not be possible, or the information may be confidential. In those instances, asking learners to imagine the hypothetical can drive effective conversations as well. Some examples:

  • What might happen if you did encounter a situation like this in your workplace? How would you respond, react? What would you do?
  • What might be the potential benefits of implementing a program like this in your workplace?

Collaboration and brainstorming on challenges is a great way to move conversations forward. 

Drawing Conclusions or Wrapping Things Up. Questions to summarize the session is an excellent way for learners to identify takeaways and move forward. Some examples:

  • What else do you need in order to be prepared to handle “x”?
  • Based on what we have learned today, what are your next steps?
  • What do you plan to do differently based on what we have discussed today?

Your goal with any question strategy is to maximize participation in the virtual session. Listen to your learners, and ask follow up questions in a way that forces everyone to get involved. Ask different types of questions to move the conversation forward and uncover valuable takeaways for your learners.

What are some of the questioning strategies you’ve learned in your virtual sessions?

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