Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Wait Eight Seconds for Questions via @emasie

Several years ago I read in Elliott Masie's Learning TRENDS about a tip he was given to wait at least 8 seconds when you ask "Are there any questions?" when giving a presentation - especially in a learning environment.

Image source: 8 seconds.
Today, Elliott reminds us of this advice in his latest Learning TRENDS post "841 - Brain Science, 8 Seconds for Questions, Love Letters". I often mention this to my students - partly as advice to them, but also to explain why I sometimes actually wait that long when I ask "Are there any questions?", or sometime the better option "What are your questions?".

To quote directly from Elliott's post: 

Recently, I was interviewed by a magazine and asked about the best tip I ever received about learning. I recounted a tip from Dr. Roger Johnson from U of Minnesota back in 1977 when he said, “Wait at least 8 seconds after asking for questions from a group of learners - before you say anything else as an instructor!” Turns out, the average instructor asks, “Are there any questions?” and only waits about 3 seconds. It takes the audience a few more seconds to process your request, formulate questions in their minds, scan the room for other people’s responses and decide to actually ask. Count to 8 and you will see an amazing difference.

This advice still holds today. I've often noticed an initial reluctance to ask questions in a class - especially with younger students. If someone does - often what happens is that more questions come along once the ice is broken. Denying learners the opportunity to ask questions diminishes the learning experience. 

One of the best questions I was ever asked by a student was "What was that all about?" when I gave a short presentation on Six Sigma to Business Analysis students. I initially was taken aback by this, but quickly realised I had not done a good job of explaining this concept - so I took the opportunity to go back over it again and with the student's input hopefully did a better job the second time. Imagine if I had not offered (and given the time) the opportunity to ask questions? At least one student would have left the class not understanding a word I said.

So - give students time to think about what they want to ask.

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