Trainer Mistake 5: Managing questions in the classroom

Bill Wilder, Life Cycle Institute

Many subject matter experts and managers are asked or required to deliver training. Most have little training experience so they make mistakes. At the 2015 Association for Talent Development conference Bob Pike, a widely respected learning authority, presented The 7 Greatest Mistakes Trainers Make and How to Avoid Them.

1 – No transfer strategy
2 – Too much content
3 – Failure to chunk content
4 – Poor use of evaluations
5 – Managing questions in the classroom
6 – Lack of planned and impromptu closers, openers, revisits, and energizers
7 – Not available before and after formal class

Mistake five is improper handling of questions in the classroom.

Subject matter experts either love or hate questions. Most love them. They get to show off their knowledge. They get to tell their stories. They get to stop worrying about the actual course content and design in favor of what they know.

It’s important to note, however, that when you simply take questions from the class these questions are usually dominated by the more assertive participants. The questions are often very specific and personal in nature rather than applicable to all, the majority, or even one other person in the class.

Bob Pike recommends that you set aside specific question times throughout the class. During this timed question and answer period, small groups are formed to agree on the questions the group wants answered. The groups write the questions on index cards.

Now you have a couple options:

  1. Collect the cards and answer the questions that most advance the learning objectives until you run out of time.
  2. Go to each group and have them pose a question.

Both options will accomplish the goal of making the questions more applicable for the group, but the former is the best method for keeping the questions and answers relevant to as many as possible and focused on the learning objectives.

Bill Wilder, M.Ed is the founder and director of Life Cycle Institute, the learning, leadership and change management practice at Life Cycle Engineering. The Institute integrates the science of learning and the science of change management to help organizations produce results through behavior change. You can reach Bill at bwilder@LCE.com.

© Life Cycle Engineering