I come from a quiet people. My classmates and I were always bad at asking questions of the teacher, or recognising that we had questions. I wish I’d had someone like historian and professor Jacqueline Antonovich, who recently tweeted a trick for encouraging her students to pipe up. She simply rephrases the prompt “Any questions?” to “What questions do you have for me?”
Last year, I switched from asking students, “Any questions?” to “What questions do you have for me?” And it’s made a world of difference. It’s got me wondering: what simple shifts in phrasing, wording, or questioning has helped your teaching?
— Dr. Jacqueline Antonovich (@jackiantonovich) November 16, 2019
“Any questions?” might imply—especially to a timid, over-polite group—that you’d like to move on, that questions are a necessary evil, that asking them implies you haven’t been keeping up like everyone else. But any good educator or speaker wants their audience to interact, to make sure they understand, and to show that your words have gotten them thinking.
It’s just as important in work life. If you’ve presented a marketing plan or a pitch deck or a budget, you want immediate feedback. What you definitely don’t want is for everyone to keep their reservations to themselves, then drop them on you days later, wasting all the work you’ve done because you thought they had no questions or comments.
So ask for feedback in a way that assumes it, even demands it. Make time for it, respect the feedback you get, make people feel better off because they spoke up.
Read the replies to Dr. Antonovich for more communication tips that extend beyond education. For example, professor Miranda Hajduk avoids saying “you” in critiques, instead referring to the work: “The essay gets lost here,” or “This slide is confusing me.” Professor Angela Jenks renamed her “office hours” to “student hours” to clarify their purpose.