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re: How do you train people to ask good questions VIEW POST


Can you give a few examples of questions you've gotten that were "bad"? I work with a lot of brand new developers and I'd love a few examples to see how I can better coach the students I work with. We try to remind students that a good question covers all of the following: 1. I'm trying to do X, but this is the error I'm getting. 2. I've tried x,y,z. 3. Here is what I think it might be. It seems to help the quality of questions.


Can you give a few examples of questions you've gotten that were "bad"?

Specific questions, no. Generally, however, it comes down to the asker not providing enough context for their question. The meaning of the question is obvious to them, but frequently not the person being asked.

Basically, everything you say you're coaching your new developers on are the kinds of things I'm talking about when I say "train people to ask good questions". Basically, "make no assumptions - even if it might feel like you're being condescending by over-detailing the question".


Yes - it's really hard to train people in a work environment compared to the student environment I'm in. Because we're seen as instructors, we can coach them explicitly on how to ask these questions (with the ultimate goal of making sure they come to us with questions only once they've exhausted their avenues within their skill level).

When a student comes to me with an error on their screen and no other context, I usually try to ask them the questions before we dig into the actual error, "what are you trying to do?" (that one is often skipped completely - I'm not a mind reader so I have no idea where their brain is and what they've been working on. I need to mind switch over to what they're working on from whatever I was just working on). "What have you tried?" "What have you found on google when you search the error message?" "What do you think is causing this error?"

Other huge issues we find is that students are not good at: 1. actually reading and interpreting the error message. They see the error and just panic instead of really thinking about the message. 2. Not able to read documentation well enough to help them. This is something that takes time (I'm still getting better at it, too!). When students try to google and end up on a complex Stack Overflow or the dev docs, it just looks like Chinese to them - they have no idea how to find their answers. With these 2 issues - I've found that students need me to sit next to them and I'll talk out my thought process about how I work through an error.

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