No Image Available

Seb Anthony

Read more from Seb Anthony

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Why Don’t We Face Facts?

default-16x9

Someone recently posted a question to the forum asking for ideas for exercises which would demonstrate "open" and "closed" questions. Of the 6 peope who answered, 5 completely omitted any mention of the fact that the whole notion of "open" and "closed" questions is approximately 70 years old and has been superseded by modern research.

That is to say, the Huthwaite Group carried out a study which showed that approximately 60% of so-called "closed" questions are likewly to evoke "open" answers, whilst a significant number of allegedly "open" questions will evoke "closed" answers (the latter is a favourite gripe of chat show hosts such as Michael Parkinson).

So my question is this:

How do we, as members of the training profession sell ourselves, convincingly, as supporters of progress when we are seemingly so reluctant to take on board modern research whenever it contradicts some out dated, and probably never researched, old wives' tale?

Best wishes

Andy Bradbury

Andrew Bradbury

14 Responses

  1. Who’s old wife?
    Having a keen interest in modern thinking I would answer this question as follows;
    1) Mentioning modern thinking to colleagues, clients and others often elicits suspicion for what is perceived as ‘these untried new fangled fads, thought up by acedemics, who have no understanding of reality’, not my words.
    2) “some out dated, and probably never researched, old wives’ tale?” – ‘It’ may be old and has not been through the acedemic grinder but the reason it is used is because it works, (however flawed) even if merely to stimulate discussion.
    3) We are creatures of habit (even in the training sector) and habit is a backward looking behaviour.
    4) Michael P, has been totally baffled on occasions when a guest responds with a single word answer to a closed question. Very interesting to watch for.
    5) Jeremy P and Micheal H interview was a classic, backing up the Huthwaite Group study.

    I do not take any sides on this but merely respond because I think any question that challenges current thinking is .. well .. good for us.

    Regards

    Peter.

  2. Modern thinking
    Peter

    I understand exactly what you mean by your first point, and have had much the same reaction – especially when using Accelerated Learning techniques such as active and passive concerts on IT course.

    (For anyone not familiar with these techniques – they involve playing selected musical items whilst teaching and reviewing.)

    I found it helpful:

    (1) To say nothing. I treat whatever I’m doing as though it is perfectly normal
    (2) If/when someone questions what I’m doing, I answer with phrases like “we now know…”. This respects the fact that whatever the person is saying probably was standard thinking ‘once upon a time’, and identifies the new information as a *development* rather than a contradiction.

    Regards

  3. Ask the right questions
    I recall that the research cited by Neil Rackham clearly highlighted the critical importance of asking the right questions as part of the sales process, rather than questions of the right type. Hardly a startling conclusion when you think about it!

    One could argue that a focus on asking the right questions must have pre-dated the fashion for asking questions of the right type (open vs closed). So which approach is old and which is new?

    All learning processes take place between your ears. If you bear in mind the fact that learning and teaching processes have been going on for tens of thousands of years it is hardly surprising that so many ‘new’ learning fashions eventually turn out to be old wine in new bottles…

    ….And as with flared trousers, if you keep the faith long enough your choice of learning fashion will ultimately return to ride again.

    Regards

  4. Trainers are people too
    A few thoughts:

    1. As other contributors have pointed out, there is very little new under the sun, and many ‘new’ ideas are mere rediscovering, recycling or regurgitating of ‘old’ ideas.

    2. How can trainers be exposed to modern research when the main focus for most businesses/ contracts is to use them for training delivery 110% of the time? There is frequently little commitment to training the trainer.

    3. There is no defined body of knowledge for adult learning professionals as there is with child learning professionals (e.g., teachers). This leads to its own inherent problems of disseminating current, or re-proven old, thought and study.

    4. Trainers are, after all, human; and as any change manager/ professional is aware, people are not always eager to embrace change. Usually change to thought, behaviour or action is accepted only when there is a clear direct benefit to the individual.

  5. A peer-reviewed journal
    Tiffany’s comment (“There is no defined body of knowledge for adult learning professionals as there is with child learning professionals (e.g., teachers). This leads to its own inherent problems of disseminating current, or re-proven old, thought and study”) is one of the reasons why the Institute of Training and Occupational Learning (ITOL) introduced a peer-reviewed journal for the profession.

    The British Journal Of Occupational Learning (ISSN 1479-2613) is published twice a year. Its aim is to publish articles which promote debate, understanding, critical analysis and professional development in the broad field of training and occupational learning.
    The journal is edited by Professor Neil Thompson, supported by a distinguished editorial board – many of international renown. Papers included may be based on theoretical analysis, critical accounts of practice issues, reports of research undertaken or any other appropriate subject matter which promotes understanding in the field of occupational learning.
    The journal publishes two types of paper:

    · Full articles Papers of between 5,000 and 7,000 words which are anonymously reviewed by two referees.
    · Commentaries Short papers (between 1,000 and 2,000 words) which are not peer-reviewed. Typically they would include summaries of research reports, accounts of innovative practice or projects, conference reports and other such items which will be of interest to readers of the journal.

    Further details may be found on ITOLs website at http://www.traininginstitute.co.uk

    Regards

    Jeffrey Brooks

  6. Outdated?
    “How do we, as members of the training profession sell ourselves, convincingly, as supporters of progress when we are seemingly so reluctant to take on board modern research whenever it contradicts some out dated, and probably never researched, old wives’ tale?”

    Old Wives tales are based on the ancient tradition of informing people what was going on, before the pen was invented. They still exist today because people today by the pure chance experiment and find out that it works. This obviously does not really apply to the more recent times where most occurrences have been recorded.

    You ask waht is an open or closed question.

    Why is it? Open

    What is you name? ——— Closed

    If you as a trainer cannot figure out what is an open or closed question without spending hours of time researching the problem then you yourself have some problems.

    Why in this world are you trying to train somebody else when you cannot even solve the problem yourself?

    The above question goes to the answers that may be thrown at possible respondents to this challenging question.

    You ask a question to get an answer. You phrase that question so that you get a specific answer or a descriptive answer.

    Closed or Open. (KRSD 2004)
    Life is simple unless you need over elaboration!

  7. Seeking answers on a discussion page?
    Keith, your response elicited an audible gasp from me at my desk, so I have to reply.

    In a nutshell, questions are part of the human communication pattern, and communication is at the core of what trainers do: communicate new information, skills, or attitudes to others.

    Humans communicate to be understood; if what we are doing is misunderstood, we should consider altering our communication until the message is understood. Humans use questions frequently to get a response, but if the response is not the one anticipated, reflection on your method is welcomed in an effort to better communicate.

    There are many reasons to ask a question, and not all questions actually warrant a reply. Ever heard of rhetorical questions?

    You state that ‘You phrase that question so that you get a specific answer or a descriptive answer.’

    Well.

    Just watch a bit of Jeremy Paxman with a politician and see how many closed questions elicit closed responses. Or talk to a teenager and see how many open questions get a short ‘It depends’ or ‘I don’t know’ in reply.

    Communication & behaviour need to be studied to shed insight on human interaction. And though there may be many out there who act otherwise, no one has all the answers, not even poor, humble trainers. We frequently ask questions with no definitive right answer, or where we don’t know the answer.

    That is, after all, the point?

  8. What is an open/closed question?
    Keith Duncan writes:

    “You ask what is an open or closed question.”

    Actually I think we ALL understand what is meant by the labels, Keith. The point I was raising is that the questions are called “open” and “closed” on the basis that “closed questions” allegedly evoke “closed answers” and “open questions” supposedly evoke “open answers”.

    If, then, the description of the QUESTION is predicated on the nature of the answer, and if 60% or more of “closed” questions actually tend to evoke “open” answers then clearly the relationship between question type and answer type does NOT hold true, the labels are inaccurate, and maybe it’s time to move on rather than calling them “open” and “closed” questions just because “that’s what we’ve always done”.

    Personally I think Tiffany hit the nail on the head when she talked about unclear standards and inadequate training for trainers.

    I hope this clears up any confusion, and thank you for your contribution.

    Be well

    Andy B.

  9. Open, Closed and statistics
    The Huthwaite group carried out a study! Who and how many people did they study? (Sorry I have not read the report)

    Tiffany states that there are unclear standards and inadequate training for trainers.

    In answer to both, statistics can be manipulted to suit what you are trying to put across. If somebody else looked at those statistics there may be a different result.

    There is no need for standards in training as it is a matter of pride and pleasure when you can impart your knowledge to somebody else. There will always be good trainers and bad trainers. As for lack of training, it is out there unfortunately the best way to learn is experience. No training course will provide you with the responses that you will get from students. A training course will teach you how to deliver a subject, but you as a trainer need to be pro-active so that you can deal with whatever comes up.

    Open or suggestive questions ellicit a response from your class/student. They have to think and if they do not have an answer you can put it to the class or help to direct the student to the answer. Closed questions should be used when you want a specific answer.

    Its called lesson planning, but we are at a modern age where the latest trend would be the thing to try.

    I will ask this last question, who was your favourite teacher at school and how did you do, secondly who was the teacher that made you work and how did you do?

    As you will have noticed the second question is slanted because your least favourite teacher would guarantee a negative response.

    Look forward to your feedback

  10. Feedback
    Keith

    As regards the details of the Huthwaite study, may I suggest you try the Internet, possibly starting with Huthwaite’s own document at:

    http://www.huthwaite.co.uk/pdf/financial/fs-cms-spin-A4.pdf

    Go to page 6.

    As regards feedback:

    1. I *personally* find your emails to be patronising and aggressive.

    2. You have your opinions, I have mine, and as far as I’m concerned I’m happy to leave it at that.

    Thanks again for your input.

    Andy B.

  11. Apologies!!!!
    Hello Andy B,

    Thank you for the link to the report, I found it to be most enlightening and it made me a lot more aware about where your original question came from.

    1. I *personally* find your emails to be patronising and aggressive.

    My apologies for this as I find that a lot of the questions asked on these forums are something that should be obvious to the person asking the question, especially, if they have the experience or should have relevant experience for the job that they are employed for.

    I applaud you for your forward thinking and can now see where your original question was based.

    2. You have your opinions, I have mine, and as far as I’m concerned I’m happy to leave it at that.

    I have my opinions and can at times be too aggressive in my comments but I believe in educating my students so that they understand what they are learning as opposed to just learning the answers.

    Sometime it takes a little aggression to get a response, but as we both know this does not work for a lot of people. I obviously had a negative response from you, so in effect the questions I asked were definately open and probably come under S as I was looking for some background to you comments. Which I achieved. Your response was very definately closed.

    SPIN works sales wise to get the student, but how does it relate to teaching?

    I know this is aggressive again but it is a subject that I am interested in and would appreciate a response. I have been involved in both Training and Sales and would love to match the two together. Or as you might say Pot, Kettle, Kettle pot- Black
    KD

  12. Consistent standards without aggression
    Keith, you make an assumption that trainers on the forum should have some experience or knowledge to a certain depth.

    And that is my point. We can’t assume anything in the training profession, not even common knowledge or a common commitment to continuing professional development. There needs to be some consistent qualification or standard, as there is for teaching anyone who has not become an adult yet.

    You state, ‘I have my opinions and can at times be too aggressive in my comments but I believe … Sometime it takes a little aggression to get a response, but as we both know this does not work for a lot of people.’

    Again, my point on communication addresses this problem. If your communication does not illicit the desired response, then rethink the communication strategy.

    *Personally* I never find aggression to work effectively in training. Assertiveness, yes; passiveness, yes (in certain facilitation events). But aggression raises barriers with either or both parties. Yet trainers should be trying to break down barriers, to work with people who are open to change, open to learning new skills, new knowledge, willing to test new attitudes. Barriers to this go up immediately when aggression is introduced, either by the trainer or other delegates.

  13. SPIN
    Keith

    Yes, I recognise that the original research was done in a specifically sales-oriented situation.

    In *my opinion*, however, the suggested reasons WHY “closed” questions so often get “open” answers seems *to me* to make the finding potentially applicable to the training situation and, indeed, to life in general.

    Be well

    Andy B.

  14. Aggression and SPIN
    Thank you to both Andy and Tiffany for your responses.

    Firstly I would like to state that I do not assume anything about individuals, the only assumptions made are relevant to the questions being asked in the minority of cases, where the people concerned are looking for a quick fix as opposed to research. Obviously you have both done your research.

    Aggression was also probably the wrong word to use in respect of training, challenging would be nearer the mark. People need incentives and that is closer to where I was coming from.

    To Tiffany and Andy,
    I have challenged you both on your thoughts and achieved a response because I was looking for in-depth feelings as opposed to the “right” answers. Alternatively I could have totally rephrased and changed my approach which would probably have changed the the way that you both responded. A bit of S & P combined!?

    I totally agree with both of your responses on aggression but sometimes (probably 1% or less of the time, it does work to stimulate a student.

    I personally do not agree or like using aggression but as a last resort it provides the “I’ll show you that I can do it” attitude.

    To Andy,

    Totally agree with your opinions on SPIN and thank you once again for the the link, just have to figure out how to apply it now in sales, training and life.

    I have been on a few courses that have veered towards this thinking but nothing that has come across so well.

    Thank you Tiffany and Andy for your input, it has been most enlightening.

Newsletter

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.

 

Thank you!