Q&A Activities for Facilitation by Novice and Seasoned Practitioners

Q&A Activities for Facilitation by Novice and Seasoned Practitioners

The Intercultural Learning Hub (HubICL) includes quite a few question and answer (Q&A) activities for the use of both beginner and seasoned intercultural learning (ICL) practitioners in a variety of settings.

Why use Q&A activities? One reason would be that the need for staff to get to know one another before doing deeper intercultural work may be higher after months and months of remote work and on-line meetings. It is also that time of the year when students are getting to know one another—in class, in student-led organizations and activities, during Greek rush, etc.—and they may need help going deeper than name, city/state/country origin, and major.

But maybe more importantly, the reason ICL practitioners use Q&A activities is that knowing how to ask good questions and how to listen well to the answers are basic to ICL. For example, the AAC&U Intercultural Knowledge and Competence VALUE Rubric assesses growth in intercultural curiosity as moving from being able to ask simple or surface questions about other cultures to being able to seek out and articulate answers that reflect multiple cultural perspectives. These Q&A activities offer practice in asking progressively more insightful questions in a facilitated environment.

Lists of questions that go deeper and deeper

If you are looking for a basic set of questions to help your learners go beneath the surface, Twenty-five Questions is a good place to start. Moving from questions about childhood, to reactions to stress, to common fears, this is a pretty safe choice for polarized participants who might need some help in moving toward minimization, especially as the activity inherently emphasizes how people can be similar the world over. One STEM student from the US revealed in a Twenty-five Questions debrief, “This guy [from the other side of the planet] now knows more about me than my mother and my girlfriend do, and I’m (surprisingly) OK with it.” If you are looking for a shorter version, Kris Acheson-Clair from Purdue’s Center for Intercultural Learning, Mentorship, Assessment and Research (CILMAR) also offers an abbreviated version which she and the CILMAR staff have whimsically entitled Five Nosy Questions.

Looking for more questions rather than fewer? Conversation Starters World offers longer lists of questions which are appropriate for different contexts. We’ve curated their 200 Questions to Get to Know Someone into the HubICL. This list is especially useful because it is divided into three categories: (1) Casual questions, such as, “If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?” (2) Somewhat personal questions, such as, “When was the last time you changed your opinion/belief about something major?” and (3) Very personal questions, such as “What bridges do you not regret burning?” (Wow!)

If you are looking for a list of questions which dig deeper into personal feelings about personal identity, you might take a look at Digging Deeper Diversity Questions, which Maura Cullen has included in her Resource Guide. Also quite useful in this same vein is an activity—The Spectrum Activity: Questions of Identity— adapted by the Spectrum Center and the program on Intergroup Relations at the University of Michigan. Through a series of sixteen questions centered on the participants’ identities, the Spectrum Activity helps learners to consider their identities critically and then to think about how their identities are more or less keenly felt in different social contexts.

Changing Up the Delivery

Some of the best ideas for inserting fun into professional development come from university staff members involved with new student orientation. If you are looking for something more stimulating than putting a list of questions before participants, you might take a look at the following:

  • Maura Cullen’s Resource Guide includes Beach Ball Ice Breaker by Jill Hoppenjans and the University of Vermont orientation team. This activity recommends writing questions on a beach ball with a permanent marker. Participants then throw the ball to one another, stopping to answer the question on which their right thumb lands. Questions include: “What was your favorite toy?” “What issue would you like to speak your mind about?” and “What is the greatest value that guides your life?”
  • Virginia Cabrera from the Purdue University orientation programs team put questions into a literal Cultural Question Jar which her team leaders used to review their knowledge of diversity-equity-inclusion (DEI) and ICL topics. When the pandemic took her student leader training on-line, she adapted the Cultural Question Jar for a virtual environment, using the Wheel of Names website.

Not all of the creative suggestions in the HubICL necessarily come from orientation leaders, however. Daniel C. Jones from the CILMAR staff brought to the HubICL the unlikely idea of using a magic trick to emphasize for learners the importance of asking good questions. He calls his activity Magic Spelling.

Finally, if you’ve got learners who are willing to dig in and think up their own questions, you might start with something like Thiagi’s Different Similarities, which can be done both forward and backward—first having students who think they are different from one another find similarities and then having the same students find additional ways that they are different from one another. For the more advanced participants, it could be interesting to follow up any of the list activities with Nagesh Rao’s A Life Without Questions or No Questions, Please! which emphasizes the importance of asking good questions, but can also cause learners to open up about times that they didn’t wish to disclose information and the discomfort they felt in being questioned.

Debriefing Question Activities

New to debriefing? A good place to start is with the Thiagi Debrief. Using this technique, participants open up as they reflect on their own emotions, think about what happened during the activity—both objectively and subjectively, synthesize and evaluate what they learned, relate their experiences and reflection to the real-world, and apply and adapt their insights into new contexts—all with six easy questions from the practitioner. For assessment purposes, you might also be interested in the Effective Listening Inventory, adapted by Katherine Yngve of Purdue University’s IDA+A department, which focuses in on the listener’s part in the questioning process.

We’d love to hear from you!

If you have Q&A activities that you would like to share with others, please begin a new tool at hubicl.org/toolbox/tools/new, and a HubICL curator will be happy to help you through the process. If you use any of the activities listed here in your own facilitation, we would love to hear about your experience in the Review tab of the HubICL Toolbox activities. For example, to review Twenty-five Questions, please go to https://hubicl.org/toolbox/tools/1/reviews.

Until next time, happy hubbing!

  1. curiosity
  2. intercultural curiosity
  3. Q&A
  4. question activities
  5. questions

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