How to teach your apprentices to take an active role in their learning

Your apprentices can take an active role in their learning, whether it is in the classroom or working on site with a journeyperson. Teaching them about closed questions and open responses is one way of getting them involved in how much and how quickly they learn.

Closed questions are often asked as a way of checking understanding. A journeyperson might ask an apprentice, “Have you used a mitre saw before?” The apprentice could reply, “Yes,” and end the conversation. Or, the apprentice could give an open answer, such as “Yes, but not for a long time. Could you show me how to properly mark the board?” By providing an open answer, the apprentice has created a learning opportunity.

For the same question, the apprentice could reply, “No,” and end the conversation there. Or, the apprentice could answer “No, but I’ve seen it used before at the last job site.” Adding this extra information will tell the journeyperson more about the apprentice’s experience with the tool than a simple “No.”

An open response to a closed question gives the apprentice a chance to ask for help, show previous experience, or give more information. If the apprentice is asked, “Do you think you could do it again?” after demonstrating a skill, the response could be “Yeah, but will you watch me to see if I’m doing it right?”

There are times when a simple “Yes,” “No,” or “Maybe” is a sufficient answer to a closed question. It is up to the apprentice to decide if more information or help is needed in the response.

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