In this third part of our facilitation techniques series, we’re using questions for elaboration to encourage further conversation.
What Are Questions For Elaboration?
Questions for elaboration is a facilitation technique to help participants open up and share more information. Try to avoid asking, “Why?” as this may put people on the defense. Examples of questions for elaboration include:
- Can you tell me more?
- What is an example of that?
- How so?
- Can you give me more detail to help me understand?
When To Use Questions For Elaboration
When working with quieter participants or when trying to get more information from someone, questions for elaboration encourage participants to provide more information. The facilitator uses neutral, open-ended questions such as “tell me more” to prompt the participant for more information.
Jo, the engineering manager, is having a one-on-one meeting with Teri, a developer. Terri has some concerns about testing their product.
Teri: I’m worried about testing.
Jo: Tell me more.
Teri: We’ve been doing a lot of manual testing. I don’t think it’s effective.
Jo: How so?
Teri: Manual testing takes time and it doesn’t catch everything. I think we should implement automated testing.
Jo: I’m interested to hear more about your thoughts on how we could do that.
Teri: It’ll take some time upfront, but once we get automated testing implemented, we can catch more bugs before our builds get released, and it’ll save time in the long run because we won’t have to have so many team members testing everything by hand.
Jo used open-ended questions or statements to encourage Teri to open up and say more about Teri’s concerns.
The Agile Learning Labs Players Demonstrate Questions for Elaboration
Form groups of two to four people. One person will take the role of facilitator, the others will be speakers. Each speaker will take a turn that follows this pattern:
- The speaker will think about a time when they saw a potential problem that others were not aware of yet.
- The facilitator will ask: “How is everything going?”
- The speaker will say: “It could be better.”
- The facilitator then uses an open-ended question to invite the speaker to elaborate.
- The speaker provides a bit more information.
- The facilitator asks another question for elaboration and the speaker fills in more details about the situation.
- Stop the role play and let the speaker provide feedback to the facilitator including how they felt about the questions the facilitator used.
Rotate roles to allow everyone to practice as facilitator.