The more we learn, and the more stuff we see, the more questions are asked.Zac Efron, Down to Earth (Netflix)
When it comes to learning new things, you may have a lot of questions. Something we stress in our classes is that all questions are welcome. If we can’t answer the question right then and there, we will help find a source for the answer when we can. However, we’re the guides on the side, encouraging our learners to identify sources and learn more on their own, teaching them how to be resourceful in finding answers.
One of the concepts they may hear us encourage is the concept of 5 “why’s.” This is a strategy for getting to the root cause of a problem. Developed as part of the Toyota Production System, it is a pattern used in problem solving where five seems to be the magic number to get close to the issue’s source.
While this was initially designed for Toyota, this approach applies to more than automobile production. Consider this software example – “our website isn’t working as expected.”
Whoops! We uncovered the source of the problem through the 5 “why”s. It doesn’t always have to be five – Semco, for example, uses a philosophy of 3 “why’s” – but similar logic is there. Asking “why” allows us to think through situations – especially cause-and-effect—a bit easier.
Another strategy we employ in our classrooms is the Socratic method. This also involves asking a lot of questions when learning, challenging beliefs and clarifying understanding. This allows instructors to see how learners logically think through problems using critical thinking and reasoning. This also enables the learner to question fellow learners, challenge their own thinking, explain their code, their approach and understanding of concepts.
This method allows for dialogue between learners or between learners and guides. These conversations are question-driven and at the end, understanding is laid out.
The pattern for the Socratic method involves:
Note that this process thrives when done respectfully and done in a way where the learners are comfortable being questioned. This also gets them “using their words” – a phrase I often use in the classroom. The more they practice their terminology in the classroom, the more confident they are in the professional realm.
Whether you are reading a document or parsing data, keep a curious mind and ask questions. Some questions that might come to mind include:
When you are learning something, ask questions. Whether it is trying to solve a problem with five “why’s, challenging understanding through the Socratic method, or generally questioning things, you will find that questions will help you learn more. Questions will help you learn how to question yourself and challenge your own understanding of topics. It will help you build confidence as you learn.
Stay curious, ask questions and continue to grow in your knowledge.