How We Learn. Why Getting Work Done Will Require Asking Questions

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As we find out from Mark K. Smith’s Learning theory: models, product and process, educational psychologist Säljö (1979) carried out some years ago a research about what adult students understood by learning. Quoting Mark K Smith, the results of the research exhibits five main approaches to learning:

  • “Learning as a quantitative increase in knowledge. Learning is acquiring information or ‘knowing a lot’.
  • Learning as memorizing. Learning is storing information that can be reproduced.
  • Learning as acquiring facts, skills, and methods that can be retained and used as necessary.
  • Learning as making sense or abstracting meaning. Learning involves relating parts of the subject matter to each other and to the real world.
  • Learning as interpreting and understanding reality in a different way. Learning involves comprehending the world by reinterpreting knowledge. “

Collective Knowledge

So while some see learning as a “know that”, other see it as “know how”. I believe this distinction is important because it explains why collective knowledge is so powerful. We have different skills and expertise and only by collaborating can we improve our set of aptitudes. Collaboration guarantees a diversity of perspectives that we couldn’t achieve by solitary knowledge. Yes, we can become very good at something, but since the number of subfields within each discipline has proliferated, it’s become difficult for a single person to know everything they need to know.

In his book “The Wisdom Of Crowds”, James Surowiecki says that “Collaboration allows […] to incorporate many different kinds of knowledge and to do so in an active way (rather than simply learning the information from a book).”. He praises open exchange of information, underlining that knowledge is cumulative. It’s collective. So better outcomes emerge from the crowd.

Asking is Knowing

But what’s the most efficient way to transfer knowledge? I believe interactions are fundamental, but in order for those interactions to be successful, they need to be relevant. Information is usually complex, so it’s best to break it down into small pieces – the cleaner and straightforward the data, the more effective the process of accumulating it. Especially when you’re looking for specific information that will help you solve particular problems. That’s why asking questions, the most basic and natural type of interaction, is the most elementary and productive way of learning.

As we learn from this post in Edutopia written by Maurice Elias, Irving Sigel devoted his life to the importance of asking questions. “He believed, correctly, that the brain responds to questions in ways that we now describe as social, emotional, and cognitive development. Questions create the challenges that make us learn.”. So the significance of questions in the learning process is elementary. Engaging questions stimulate our brains, building an interactive environment that everyone benefits. Questions reveal and trigger thinking at the same time. They’re the key to knowledge.

That’s why we’ve built our software Quandora around this simple but valuable action. Asking questions is an essential tool. The tool you need in order to get work done. Make use of it and…

Happy Knowledge Sharing!

Looking for a great way to ask questions and build knowledge with your co-workers? Quandora enables simple, efficient knowledge sharing with your team, way more fun than a mailing list or a forum. Try Quandora

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