Why ask questions as a facilitator?

 

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I want to take nothing for granted!

There are two core skills that will help you become an effective facilitator, in ANY setting.

  1. First, be a good active listener and observer.
  2. Next become skilled in the art of asking the right questions in the right way at the right time.

There are several ways you can do this.

You can – if you feel you have all the answers and want to impress everyone with your knowledge – simply give ‘the answer’.

Or you can seek participation and give group members the opportunity to reflect, think, discover and make decisions by themselves.

Reasons to pose questions to the group:

  • Gain people’s involvement
  • Get a feeling for peoples’ thoughts, ideas or opinions.
  • Involve quiet people.
  • Recognize key-contributors.
  • Manage the meeting time.
  • Gain understanding by exploring both sides of an issue.

Two Basic types of Questions in Facilitation:

  1. Closed Ended – Resulting in Yes/No answers
  2. Open Ended – Resulting in thinking and discussion

Examples of Open Ended Questions to ask the group, use the below:

  • How do you feel about…?
  • What is your idea about…?
  • What do you think?
  • Amy, what do you think?
  • John, that’s an interesting idea. Tell us more about it.
  • OK, we’ve spent quite a bit of time on that question. How do you feel about moving on?
  • That is one way of looking at it. Let’s look at the other side. What would happen if you…?

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Additional Types of Questions (Advanced Facilitative Questions)

General questions – Addressed to the group as a whole, perhaps written on an overhead or flip-chart.

Direct questions – Addressed to an individual by name, or a sub-group.

Open-ended questions

  1. Start with who, what, when, where, how.
  2. Questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no.

Factual question – Asked to ascertain factual information.

Re-directed question — The facilitator throws a question asked of her/him back to the group.

Leading question — The expected answer is implicit in the question.  These are used only occasionally as it becomes VERY easy to become manipulative and a Sage on the Stage with very little learning or discovery.

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Risks of Questions

  • Question is not directed at anyone in particular, it may not be answered. A wrong question can misdirect the process. Unless sufficient time is allowed for thinking, it may not work.
  • It can embarrass unprepared group members.
  • More effective if followed by a general question to put the focus back to the group as a whole.
  • Such questions are more difficult to answer.
  • Questions starting with why may be perceived as threatening.
  • If facilitator cannot build on the responses, usefulness is reduced.
  • A few group members who know the facts may monopolize discussion.
  • May give the impression that the facilitator is not knowledgeable. Can be perceived as an avoiding tactic.
  • Can be manipulative.  Good points can be lost due to facilitator’s anxiety to maintain control.

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What are some great questions you have used or what are your thoughts and ideas around questioning that would help everyone?  Please share below!

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