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Challenge learners to dig for insight

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in Centerpiece,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

brain made of gearsTraining works best when you turn students into participants. Give them a chance to shape their learning, rather than spoon-feed information to them, and they’ll feel more engaged.

Deep learning occurs when you establish the right conditions. The goal is to enable employees to forge neural connections so that their skills and in­­sights are easier to tap. Here’s how:

Introduce tension. People learn more when they confront a tension that begs for a resolution. Their need to address mental uncertainties or seeming contradictions leads them to work harder to uncover relevant knowledge.

As a coach, look for opportunities to spark tension in someone’s mind. Identify a problem that’s hard to solve. De­­scribe a mysterious defect and explore potential causes. By arousing one’s curiosity, you lay the groundwork for rigorous exploration.

Let employees define strategy. The best coaches ask employees to decide their own strategy for achieving key goals. That’s smarter than outlining a strategy and expecting people to adopt it.

Once you get others to devise a strategy to tackle a project, encourage them to make adjustments along the way. That’s when they can learn how their actions can advance their progress.

Pose questions, but withhold answers. An effective coach doubles as a facilitator, not a teacher who dishes out information. And a good facilitator poses smart questions.

Ask a mix of inquiries: summary questions (“What’s the core issue?”, “Who’s involved?”), analysis questions (“What are the contributing factors?”) and hypothesis questions (“What if we tried something else?”).

— Adapted from The Thinking Effect, Michael Vaughan, Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

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