Tip #735:  Prompt Learners to Think

“Efforts to develop critical thinking falter in practice because too many professors still lecture to passive audiences instead of challenging students to apply what they have learned to new questions.” Derek Bok

I just participated in a webinar with Ray Jimenez titled: Seven Key Questions to Bridge the Gap Between Learning and Application. His basic premise is that work is never static; it is situational. For this reason, he believes that teaching participants how to follow the steps to a process, for example, will not be helpful if there are barriers in the way. Participants need to work through real situations using trial and error, or what he terms “successive approximation,” to find solutions.

Jimenez offers four steps in the continuous cycle of successive approximation: (1) diagnose, examine;(2) fix, solve and improve; (3) apply answers or solutions; (4) see if answers, solutions work. (This seems very similar to Plan- Do- Check- Act for continuous improvement.)

I agree with him completely. It is not enough for participants to learn how to conduct an interview. They need to practice what they learned while in the class. But after practicing what they have been taught, if would be a good idea if additional practice should include “what if?” scenarios.

According to Jimenez, our training programs should focus on teaching participants how to use critical thinking skills to handle unpredictable situations- as opposed to what to do in an ideal situation. His seven questions are intended to prompt participant thinking. I’ve adapted them to a certain degree so they are more self-explanatory:

  1. What would happen if I solve it and what will happen if I do not solve it?
  2. What is my experience with this problem?
  3. What did we do before?
  4. Who can provide answers?
  5. Where are records or historical data?
  6. What should I try to make it work? What should I do if it still does not work?
  7. Is it working? How do I know if I am getting the results I want?

I think that these are great questions. I particularly like questions 1 (for prioritizing), 4 (for getting help), 6 (for creative thinking), and 7 (for honest assessment).

Jimenez’s title led me to think about the definition of learning. According to the Google dictionary, learning is the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught.

Studies have shown that up to 95% of learning occurs in real work situations, where knowledge and skill grow as the result of experience and successive approximation.

What if there is no gap between learning and application? We learn from experience. Experience requires application. Therefore, there is no real world learning without application.

What if trainers and teachers recognized that learning and application are integrally related to one another?

Please let me know what you think!

May your learning be sweet.


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