The art of asking questions

May 09, 2024 •

11 min reading

The art of asking questions in EHL Train The Trainer programs


The artistry of questioning resides in the ability to inquire, provoke thought, and stimulate meaningful conversations. Asking the right questions is a skill that goes beyond simple information gathering; it involves finesse, empathy, and a deep understanding of the context.

Questioning is also one of the oldest and most effective methods for teaching and opening minds. The Socratic method is based on antagonistic questions. And Voltaire's words echo through time, urging us to:

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.

Indeed, the questions we ask can be more important than the answers we obtain, and often pave the way for the answers we need.

EHL Train the Trainer (TTT) Program develops a comprehensive approach to hospitality education and training. It equips teachers and trainers with the necessary skills to be course facilitators who embrace the importance of questions in the learning process. Instead of giving learners the solution to a challenge, questions serve as catalysts for engagement, critical thinking, and skill development.

In this blog post, we delve into the artistry of asking questions within the EHL Train the Trainer Program and explore methods for crafting effective questions, integrating them into the curriculum, examining case studies, addressing challenges, and drawing conclusions.


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The role of questions in training

Importance of questions

Questions play a pivotal role in facilitating learning and engagement in training programs. They stimulate curiosity, encourage active participation, and foster critical thinking among trainees.

By posing thought-provoking questions, trainers can guide learners to explore concepts more deeply, leading to a richer understanding of the subject matter. The value of questions goes beyond their immediate impact; they are catalysts for transformative learning.

As educators, we can safely rely on questions as a tool for:

  • Breaking mindsets: Questions challenge existing mindsets, paving the way for new perspectives and insights.
  • Provoking deep reflection: Thoughtful questions instigate deep reflection, prompting individuals to reevaluate their beliefs.
  • Stimulating focus and conversation: Questions gather focus, attract attention, and energize conversations.
  • Creating knowledge: Questions drive knowledge creation and expansion.
  • Sparking creativity: Well-crafted questions ignite creativity, encouraging innovative thinking.
  • Learning facilitation: Questions expedite the learning process, moving individuals from reactionary to deep thinking.

Critical thinking and active participation

One of the primary functions of questions in training is to promote critical thinking. By posing open-ended questions that require analysis and evaluation, trainers encourage trainees to think critically and develop their problem-solving skills. Moreover, questions elicit active participation from learners, creating an interactive learning environment where ideas are exchanged, and knowledge is co-constructed.

Difference between closed and open-ended questions

Understanding the distinction between closed and open-ended questions is essential for effective training. Closed questions typically require a specific, often one-word answer, while open-ended questions encourage a more elaborate response, prompting deeper reflection and discussion. Trainers must use a combination of both types of questions strategically to engage learners and stimulate meaningful dialogue.

Albert Einstein's Insight

Albert Einstein, the maestro of theoretical physics, acknowledged the paramount importance of questions in problem-solving.

His perspective, "If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask," underscores the profound value of questions in guiding our thought processes.

The neuroscience behind question-led learning

In fact, the neuroscience of learning has proven that asking open-ended, insightful questions such as “What would you do?” or “What opportunities do you see here?” triggers several astounding processes in the mind of the learner:

Rewiring: The brain isn’t hardwired like electronic devices that use the same circuits to perform the same processes over and over. Neuroplasticity allows our brains to physically change their wiring to enable creative thinking and synthesis. Our neurons literally shift into new locations and form new pathways in our brain when we learn. Thought-provoking questions force our brains to develop new pathways and grow stronger for greater insight.

Whole-brain involvement: The brain literally lights up when you ask a question instead of being provided with a solution or information. Following questioning, the entire brain gets busy and releases serotonin, the feel-good hormone that promotes relaxation. This complete involvement allows ideas to merge from all areas of the brain. It generates new thinking pathways and more comprehensive thoughts and creative ideas.

Desire for action: When serotonin is released, it creates a rush of energy that stokes the brain into actively searching for solutions to a problem. The learner becomes motivated and ready to act. And while this flash of energy is brief, it creates a good opportunity to ask the learner to create a plan of action and commit to the solution.

Types of questions that promote learning

In EHL Train the Trainer Programs, a variety of question types are utilized to facilitate learning and skill development. Clarifying questions help learners understand complex concepts, probing questions encourage deeper exploration of ideas, and reflective questions prompt self-assessment and evaluation. By incorporating diverse question types, trainers can cater to different learning styles and preferences. Here are a few examples:

Closed questions

These are designed to get a single, straightforward response, basically “Yes or No” or “True or False” or a specific answer. There is usually only one possible answer for a closed question. These are best used to get specific information or gauge someone’s knowledge of a topic.


  • Did you receive the syllabus?
  • Is Switzerland part of the European Union?
  • How many milliliters are in a liter?

Open-ended questions

These encourage detailed and insightful responses, fostering creativity and depth. There is no correct response, therefore, the respondent is free to answer openly. These questions stimulate thought processes and work well for group discussions.


  • “Why is it important to smile when welcoming a guest?”
  • “How did you find that answer?”
  • “What was your internship experience like?”

Testing questions

There are many different types of questions that test knowledge, such as closed questions, multiple choice and true or false, and to those we can add recall and process questions. These are all used to evaluate a learner’s understanding of a subject, and they usually have only one correct answer.


  • Yes/No: “Does sparkling water contain anything besides H2O?”
  • True or false? Most sparkling water is naturally bubbly.
  • Recall: “What is the main ingredient in bread?”
  • Multiple choice: “Which of these show the molecular structure of water?”
  • Process: “Why is it important to knead bread?”

Leading questions

Leading questions encourage a certain response by including a hint to the right response within the question itself. These types of questions should be used carefully, as they may give an impression of bias or manipulation. And they can elicit a negative reaction. In contrast, neutral questions are just open-ended questions that don’t seek to influence the response.


  • Leading: "Isn’t it better to greet a guest by name?”
  • Leading: “Wasn’t that presentation great?”
  • Neutral: "How should you greet a guest?"
  • Neutral: “What did you think of the presentation?”

Rhetorical questions

Rhetorical questions are used to make a point or draw attention to an idea. They are used to persuade the audience, so they don’t require or expect a response. We don’t use rhetorical questions in everyday conversations, but they can be useful and thought-provoking when included in formal presentations, speeches or sales pitches.


  • Wouldn’t it be great if you could do all of those things in one click?
  • Who cares if one customer leaves unhappy?
  • Who will maintain the service standard if the lead trainer is missing?

Divergent questions

Here, the questions don’t have right or wrong answers, but are designed to encourage reflection and discussion, or introduce topics. As a form of the open question, they go a step further to invite the respondent to share an opinion, take an educated guess, or reflect on future possibilities.


  • "Do you know why we need to eat vegetables?"
  • “Why is it so hard for people to eat enough vegetables?”
  • “What would happen if eating vegetable was made easier?”

Probing questions

These are second-level questions that stimulate deeper thinking and reflection, often as a follow-up for a first response. Within this category, there are a number of different types of probing questions.

  • Elaborating: "Can you tell me more about that?"
  • Clarifying: “What do you mean by “un-fit”?”
  • Critical awareness: “What facts do you have to support your answer?”
  • Refocus: “If that is true, then how will that affect the process?”
  • Redistribute: “John, can you explain Sharon’s answer?”
  • Prompting: “What might come next, after giving the key?”
  • Devil's Advocate: "What if the contrary were true?"

The art of crafting effective questions

Characteristics of well-crafted questions

Well-crafted questions possess certain characteristics that make them effective tools for learning. They are clear, concise, relevant to the topic at hand, and designed to stimulate critical thinking. Additionally, effective questions are open-ended, allowing for multiple perspectives and interpretations, and they encourage active engagement from learners.

Tips for formulating questions

Formulating effective questions requires careful consideration and planning, so trainers should:

  • Prepare some questions ahead of time for each lesson or discussion session
  • Consider learning objectives, audience demographics, and desired outcomes
  • Use language that is clear and accessible to all learners
  • Avoid leading or biased questions
  • Allow sufficient time for reflection and response

These essential tips for formulating questions ensure that your questions will stimulate discussion and learning while avoiding the pitfalls of asking vague or misleading questions or making certain people feel excluded or uncomfortable.

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Qualities of powerful, yet respectful, questions

In today’s classrooms and training groups, respect for cultural diversity is paramount. It’s important that educators formulate questions that meet these criteria:

  1. Open: There are no embedded cultural, political, or ideological assumptions.
  2. Inviting: Involves both head and heart. People can respond with their feelings and their thoughts.
  3. Honest: It has not already been answered and finding an answer is crucial to moving forward.
  4. Experiential: People can tell a story or recall an experience that relates to the question.
  5. Inclusive: Anyone could have something valuable to say, regardless of age, race, gender, etc.
  6. Generative: Can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no”, or a platitude.
  7. Relevant: Even though broad, the question applies to many of the real issues we all face.
  8. Inspiring: Makes you want to find an answer and do something about it.


The use of questions in EHL Train The Trainer programs

Integration into the training curriculum

Questions are seamlessly integrated into the training curriculum of EHL Train the Trainer Programs. They are not treated as isolated exercises but rather as integral components of each learning module. Trainers incorporate questions into lectures, group discussions, case studies, and practical exercises to reinforce key concepts and promote active engagement from learners.

Techniques for encouraging questions

Encouraging trainees to ask questions is essential for creating a participatory learning environment. EHL Train the Trainer Programs employ various techniques to facilitate question asking, such as fostering a supportive and non-judgmental atmosphere, providing opportunities for peer interaction and collaboration, and offering incentives for active participation.

Role in assessing understanding and skill development

Questions also play a crucial role in assessing trainee understanding and skill development. Trainers use questions to gauge comprehension, identify areas of confusion, and measure progress over time. By posing targeted questions during training sessions and evaluating the quality of responses, trainers can tailor their instruction to meet the individual needs of learners and ensure optimal learning outcomes.

Addressing common challenges

While questions are powerful tools for learning, they are not without their challenges. Common issues such as trainee reluctance to ask questions, managing difficult or off-topic questions, and dealing with silence during group discussions can arise. Trainers must be prepared to address these challenges effectively and implement strategies to encourage question asking and maintain a productive learning environment.

Strategies for overcoming challenges

Several strategies can help trainers overcome challenges related to question asking in the EHL Train the Trainer Program. Building rapport and trust with trainees, providing clear guidelines for question asking, and incorporating interactive activities that encourage participation are effective approaches. Additionally, trainers can use prompts, scaffolding, and feedback to support learners in formulating and articulating their questions effectively.

Real-life examples from EHL Train The Trainer programs

To illustrate the effectiveness of questions in EHL Train the Trainer Programs, let's consider two real-life examples:

  • In a leadership development workshop, trainers use probing questions to encourage participants to reflect on their leadership style and identify areas for improvement.
  • In a customer service training session, open-ended questions are employed to facilitate role-playing exercises and encourage empathy and problem-solving skills.

Success stories abound in EHL Train the Trainer Programs, where questions have led to valuable insights and breakthroughs. By posing the right questions at the right time, trainers have been able to unlock hidden talents, inspire creativity, and empower learners to reach their full potential. The appreciative remarks of learners serve as a testament to the transformative power of questions in training and education.

In conclusion, questions are indispensable tools in teaching and an important part of the EHL Train the Trainer Program, guiding learners through the process of exploration, reflection, and discovery. By understanding the significance of questions, crafting them effectively, and integrating them strategically into the training curriculum, trainers can create dynamic learning experiences that foster engagement, critical thinking, and skill development.

As we reflect on the artistry of questions, we are reminded of their transformative power and the profound impact they have on the learning journey.

In the words of Bruce Lee, "Practice makes perfect." As trainers hone their questioning skills, their work becomes a natural, skillful, swift, and steady art, ensuring a transformative learning experience for students, recognizing their potential to inspire curiosity, ignite creativity, and spark meaningful dialogue.


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