“Are we answering the same question?”
Updated: Mar 12, 2022
I was one of the participants in a short group discussion session last week. Like other facilitated sessions, there was a debrief session after some activities. The facilitator asked a question verbally for us to discuss within individual table teams. What the facilitator intended to ask is ‘How effective do we learn from our daily work? Please indicate by a percentage of time when you really learnt something you want.’ Unfortunately, different teams understood differently about what was asked.
‘Please indicate by a % of time which I attend courses…’
‘Please indicate by a % of time when you learnt anything…’
The difference in understanding is subtle but it implies very different answers. It then makes the subsequent discussion difficult, if not irrelevant.
We use questions to arouse discussion in training or facilitated session all the time. The above challenge is actually quite common i.e. questions not being tightly asked. What can we do to make sure more exact understanding? Some thoughts here:
Questions appearing visually – Participants generally listen less effectively than we expect. It is fine if it is a 1-to-1 conversation. It is easy to clarify. But if you are talking to a group of people, it is another story. Some just are not listening. Some just do not ask for clarification since they do not want to appear stupid in front of the others. This is especially the case during debrief session after some high energy games.
Put the questions on the slides or flipcharts. Make no ambiguity. In addition, by writing the exact questions down, it helps the facilitator to clarify his / her mind as well. Quite often, facilitators construct the question only on spot.
Repeating the questions exactly – When the facilitators are asked to repeat the questions, the questions often become different. I mean word-by-word. This is not easy if the facilitators only come up with the questions on spot.
Speaking less – If you are a person of a few words, people will listen to you better when you open your mouth. On the other hand, if a facilitator talks all the time, there is higher chance that the learners will ignore his / her words. Human nature – People pay less attention to those which are in abundance. I once met a facilitator who seldom speaks in class. And when he speaks very slowly and clearly. A lot of pause. He always manages to grasp attention when he speaks.
Giving example – Example helps understanding and it is another form of repeating the question.