An excellent way to begin any type of a lifelong learning class is to ask the participants, “What do you know about this topic?” This question serves several valuable purposes for classroom management and insight for the facilitator.
First, this question is an open ended question that serves as an introduction to the topic. Open ended questions tell participants that they are free to express their opinions, ideas and experiences. It also demonstrates that this class is “not a lecture, filled with facts for you to learn.”
Second, this question sets the stage for listening to one another and acknowledging that participants have information or life experience about the topic that is valuable for the rest of the group to hear.
Third, this question helps the facilitator identify what the participants know about a topic. Is there a subject matter expert in the group that can assist in providing additional information or insight to the topic?
Fourth, this question provides positive reinforcement for those who do contribute but doesn’t slight those who don’t. As participation in a lifelong learning program continues you will find residents who are curious about a topic and do some research before class. Acknowledge their curiosity!
Fifth, after the class material has been presented and discussed ask the participants the question again, “What do you know about this topic?”