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close this bookDesigning Human Settlements Training in African Countries - Volume 2: Trainer's Tool Kit (HABITAT, 1994, 182 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe lecture
View the documentVisual aids
View the documentQuestion and answer
View the documentDiscussion
View the documentDemonstration
View the documentSimulation
View the documentThe case method
View the documentCritical incidents
View the documentRole-playing
View the documentInstrumentation
View the documentBrainstorming
View the documentNominal group technique (NGT)
View the documentForce field analysis
View the documentAction planning
View the documentOther learning transfer strategies
View the documentPerformance analysis & needs assessment
View the documentTraining impact evaluation
View the documentTraining the staff to train
View the documentCoaching
View the documentTeam development
View the documentRole negotiation
View the documentIntergroup conflict intervention
View the documentOrganizational goal setting
View the documentA closing note

Question and answer

Learning Emphasis

Organization Focus

A questioning man is halfway to being wise.

- Irish Proverb

One of the most powerful techniques available to the trainer for involving people in the learning process is the question-and-answer method. By asking the right questions at the right time, a trainer is able to stay in touch with the progress being made by a group of participants in training and to respond effectively to their learning needs. Making successful use of the question-and-answer method involves knowing how to formulate good questions and how to use them to stimulate participant interest, promote understanding and encourage back-home application of learning.

Most people think that questions are used in training to test for the comprehension and recall of information. Certainly, this is one important use of the question-and-answer method, but questions can have many other uses in facilitating learning.

One author provides a series of questions that can be used by a trainer at each stage of the learning process, to help participants get the greatest possible value from a learning experience. The questions have been somewhat condensed and modified to fit the three stages of learning introduced earlier in the volume.

1. At the presentation stage of learning, the questions asked aim at generating information from participants useful to the trainer in assessing their reactions to a presentation or to the programme as a whole.

· What do you need to know about it?
· How do you feel about it?
· What problems do you have with it?
· Could you be more specific about it?
· Can you say it in another way?
· Who had the same reaction to it?
· Who reacted differently to it?
· What surprised/puzzled you about it?
· How many felt the same way?
· What would you suggest?
· What else?
· Would you say more about it?

2. At the processing stage of learning, questions are directed at helping participants understand and interpret the meaning of information or ideas presented to them.

· What does it mean to you?
· In what way is it significant?
· How is it good/bad?
· Does it remind you of anything?
· How is it different?
· Does it help explain something?
· How is it like/unlike what you have experienced before?
· What does it suggest about you/others?
· What do you understand better now about you/others?
· So what?

3. At the applying stage of learning, questions asked by the trainer are meant to help participants think about and make use of new ideas and information on returning to their work environments.

· What would you like to do with it?
· In what ways would it be useful to you?
· How could you repeat it back home?
· What could you do to hold on to it?
· What might you do to help/hinder making use of it?
· What would be the consequences of doing/not doing it?
· How could you make it even better?
· What option do you have?
· What can you visualize about doing it?

There are a number of things trainers should keep in mind when asking questions.

1. Plan the questions. Don’t throw them in at random. Know why a question is being used. For instance, is the question to obtain information, “Where do you work?” or to gather opinions, “Do you think this plan will work?”

2. Ask questions that are short, clear and easy for participants to understand. Avoid asking questions like, “Which of the three phases of the adult learning cycle - presenting, processing or applying - is the most important?” In writing, the question seems simple enough, but, asked orally to an individual or group, it becomes confusing. If you must ask a lengthy question, illustrate it with a flip chart or on a transparency. That way, participants aren’t trying so hard to remember each part of the cycle that they forget the question.

3. Avoid asking questions that call for a yes or no answer and questions where the answer is implied. Also, take care not to answer questions before participants have a chance to answer, and avoid cross-examining them.

4. Make it a habit to use this simple procedure when asking questions:

· Address the question to the group as a whole. Look at no one participant in particular,

· Pause for two or three seconds,

· Call on a specific participant by name,

· Establish and maintain eye contact while the participant is responding,

· If the participant has trouble answering, rephrase or refocus the question - as an alternative, ask another participant to answer it,

· When the correct answer is given, repeat it, and

· Reinforce the correct answer by saying, “Yes, that’s right, the ....”

Equally important to being a good questioner is being a good responder. There are a few key things to keep in mind when participants are asking questions.

1. Be sure to acknowledge every question. It’s a good idea to paraphrase the question to show that you understand it. You might say, for example, “If I understand what you’re asking, it’s this ....”

2. Answer the question as completely and accurately as possible. Verify that you have met the needs of the person asking the question. “Is that what you were looking for?” “Have I said enough about that?” Be ready to offer additional facts or evidence if any questions remain.

3. When asked a question that a participant might be able to answer, divert the question back to the group before offering an answer of your own. This is another way to keep participants actively involved in their own learning.

4. Be careful not to go off on a tangent. When somebody asks a question, don’t say, “That reminds me of a time when ...” and then proceed to a 10-minute personal reflection that may have little to do with the topic. By the time you are finished, nobody will remember the question, including you.


The question-and-answer method is one of the trainers most versatile techniques for stimulating conversation and guiding communication. Questions are useful for finding out what people need to know, what their interests are, how much they are learning and what they are likely to do with new skills and behaviours once a programme is over. They can be used spontaneously to get on-the-spot information or they may be included in comprehensive data-gathering instruments.