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“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” – Chinese proverb

As an instructor, it is tempting to simply provide an answer as students ask questions. Although it may seem as if we are helping them, as the Chinese proverb above reminds us, in the end we will be helping them more if we involve them in the pursuit of the answer. There are many approaches to this which we share in Training From the BACK of The Room, and one of my favorites is as simple to follow as its name, “Three Before Me.”

How do we use “Three Before Me”?

This training approach to responding to a student’s inquiry is  simple!  Just take the following steps:

  • When a student asks a question, do not simply respond with the answer. Instead, reassure the class you have an answer, but you would love to hear from their peers first. What do these other attendees know about this topic that they can share will their fellow student?
  • Let the students respond.  Be sure to praise answers that are valid and add clarifying or correcting information to ones which are not spot-on.
  • Before you provide an answer, allow up to three students to share their thoughts and answers.
  • Then provide your answer. (IF someone already shared the same answer you have, openly praise them and add to it if appropriate.)
  • Make sure to circle back to the original student that asked the question to make sure their question was answered.
  • Appreciate all the fellow students who spoke up in this Three Before Me exercise with a genuine “Thank you.”

When to Use “Three Before Me”

This is a versatile tool, that can be used in a variety of scenarios.  If a student raises a question, you can try it out!  It has become an approach often used in my classes.  It may be appropriate to pull this technique from your training tool box at any point in a class, but it is especially helpful if you are working with students learning new concepts and practicing new concepts.

Example of “Three Before Me”

For example, recently I was training developers on Story Splitting.  We had covered several approaches when one student asked how we could split a particular story their team had in their backlog. I saw this as a perfect time for “Three Before Me.”  I said I did have an idea, but I wanted to hear what the other developers in the class thought. Everyone listened while one, then the next, and another responded.  What was interesting was none of the answers were the same. Each had a different splitting technique they said they would use, and some even articulated why they chose a certain one based on what we covered in the training.  I was impressed!

I then confirmed each of the responses were quite good and could work for the story in question.  I shared the one I would have gravitated towards, along with my logic, too. The developer that asked the question affirmed he understood and that was helpful.  Before we moved on, I made sure to say “Thank you” to the developers for sharing their insights.  It was great to see the developers were not only acquiring this new knowledge, but they were already comprehending the application of the material as well. Nice!

Benefits of “Three Before Me”

There are so many benefits to “Three Before Me.”  The students learn more as they answer others using the information they are learning.  The person asking the question receives more perspectives and usually more information than an answer from one person alone.  As an instructor, you can gain insight into where the students are in their mastery of the material.  With all this in mind, the next time a student asks a question, I would encourage you to consider if this might be the right time to see what the other students might have to share. You might be surprised and learn a little something yourself, and you certainly will increase learning for all involved.

Try “Three Before Me”, and remember: students often learn more in the pursuit of answers and by discussing content with each other, than they may learn by being provided with an instructor’s answer alone.  Your role as a training certainly has a place, and sometimes that place is training from the BACK of the room.

Did you try this technique? Please share your experiences and thoughts below!  

Concepts and Beyond teaches many more virtual techniques in Training from the BACK of the Room Virtual Edition TBR-VE training and our other virtual workshops. Click on the link to know more


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