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ASK, NOT TELL

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  • David

RAC – Generation Y

Updated: Mar 8


It is real!!A lot of people talk about Generation Y and argue that they need different kind of training. I hear and see a lot of these in training conferences or magazines. But I never realise that it is so real until last week. I conducted a series of presentation classes to 24 banking trainees who graduated from universities around 1/2 year ago. They are around 22 or 23. They were born in 1985-86. They are real young!! And more importantly, they are really different kind of learners as compared to the others I experienced before.

  • Course: Three 2-day presentation courses back to back

  • Date: Starting from 18 Feb 2008 onward

  • Location: Shanghai, China

  • # of Participants: 8 in each class

  • I am feeling: I learnt something new

Here are the major difference I experienced in the classes:

Smarter – I found them to be smarter, both in terms of how much they knew already and how fast their brain works. They are definitely so as compared to the management trainees at my time. Taking presentation as an example, they have more background knowledge on this (but may be because presentation skills is more and more popularly studied in the last 10 years.) They can also apply what they learn faster. I asked them to include 1 analogy, 1 diagram and 1 example in their 5-min presentation. I gave them 30 mins to prepare, like what I did in other classes. But it turned out that they did not quite need it.


Real short attention span – I argue that adult has short attention span. Granville said 18 minutes for one way lecture. My gen-Y learners’ attention is shorter than that. In addition, they prefer straight answers rather than prompting questions.


Stronger stimulation is needed – Soon after we entered into a group discussion setting (not even lecturing), I can sense their energy level dropped quickly. Their faces turned blank and I got fewer responses from my questions. In fact, my learners said directly that they want more activities and videos. They want stronger stimulation. My read is that it is just like the TV programs – they are more rich in stimulation now than before. The pace is faster and there is more music & flash on the TV screens. They want movie trailers rather than the movie itself. My learners has grown in a different TV era (or I shall say media era as it is now Internet rather than TV).


So, the more important question is – what would I do different next time?


‘Closed-er’ questions – I did reflect a lot when the learners demanded straight answers rather than questions. Did I ask too much? I finally said to myself that I will still ask a lot of questions. Why? First, I think that their resistance to questions is normal. Finding the answer myself is always harder than being given the answer. But it is exactly the process of finding the answer makes people learn better. Instead, I will change the way I ask the questions. I will make questions of nature being more ‘closed’ than ‘open’. For example, instead of ‘Tell me how paraphrasing helps in handling questions.’, I will ask ‘Imagine yourself to be the audience and you take the courage to ask a question openly. How would you feel if the speaker paraphrases correctly your question?’ (answer = paraphrasing can show respect).


More doing than talking – I will keep the group discussion / lecture session less than 10 minutes. Let them do more.


Variety – I shall add more variety in terms of delivery, on top of those I am using now i.e. lectures, small & big group discussion, role play and appreciative enquiry. Not only types of delivery, but also frequency in switching from one to another in the class.

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