Skill to support and encourage/confront the group and/or learner in useful waySupport learners in identifying and meeting their learning needs and overcoming any barriersSupports and encourages/confronts learners in a useful wayUnderstanding and facilitating individual and group learning process

Probing questions

Supporting, encouraging or confronting learners in a useful way is a mastery that comes with years of practice. In this tool I am proposing to look into deepening learning of participants by asking them probing questions.

Why did I choose this tool? I chose this tool, because I believe that asking the right questions at a right time is the most powerful tool of learning. Also since I find probing questions not that easy to master, I propose to start with getting acquainted to examples of them and start introducing them one by one into your training practice.

How does this apply to being a trainer? In the training job we are aiming to make people think and reflect deeply about the topic, the tasks, the group, themselves. This is not easy, as one of the participants said to me recently: “It is difficult, because I need to think on my own. I’m not used to that”. Asking probing questions does not allow people to get away with the written truths or repeating opinions of others. It makes people go deeper and understand what is the thing that they are actually thinking or feeling.

Main content:

Read through 2 pages on probing questions guide.

Now take these questions and transform them into questions that would encourage deeper, wider or critical thinking.

  1. That presentation was fantastic, wasn’t it?
  2. Was it difficult for you?
  3. How happy or unhappy are you with the group?
  4. Do you think the workshop helps you understand it better?
  5. What was useful in this activity?
  6. The new task will be based on what we’ve discussed, won’t it?
  7. Don’t you think that you can do better?
  8. Why didn’t you ask for help?
  9. Did you like the activity?
  10. What are the 5 stages of group dynamics?

Reflection questions:

  • What was the most powerful question you were ever asked?
  • What makes a question powerful?
  • How do you (or could you) decide when it is suitable to ask probing questions and when – not?
  • What are the situations when you think you should avoid probing questions?


How to apply it in everyday life:

Knowing how the questions should be asked is not enough. It also takes active listening skills and finding the right time to ask these questions. Practice asking probing questions whenever possible and find the most suitable way for you to provoke people’s thinking.

Author of the article: Justina Garbauskaitė-Jakimovska

Justina Garbauskaitė-Jakimovska is a freelance educator and researcher in the field of non-formal learning and youth who also works in the teacher training programmes at Vilnius University in Lithuania. Favourite topics are facilitation of learning, personal and professional development. Justina is also a member of the Pool European Youth Researchers, her research interests are non-formal learning process, how learners experience and make sense out of it, the professional development of youth workers and trainers in the youth field. All of this combined = evidence based practices + practice informed research.

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Editor: Donatas Petkauskas

is professional supervisor, coach and experiential learning trainer, having more than 15 years of experience in consulting various organizations and individuals, creating and conducting training course on national and international levels. Donatas has extensive experience in non-formal education, training of youth workers and trainers. He is working in the field of non-formal education since 2003, since 2004 he is a member of trainers pool of Lithuanian National Agency (currently an alumni).

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