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Published on April 20, 2021

How To Ask the Right Questions For Effective Learning

How To Ask the Right Questions For Effective Learning

Asking the right questions is basically the magic key to any kind of personal or professional development. Sounds pretty awesome, huh? Unfortunately, many people are afraid to ask questions at all. They often think that they look stupid if they ask too many questions.

Well, funny enough, it’s impossible to move forward without asking questions. How are you supposed to learn anything new if you’re never wondering, “how can I do that?” or “what is required to achieve my desired result?”

But it’s not only about asking others. You must also master the art of asking yourself the right questions. Yes, you read that right. The kind of questions you ask yourself can have a huge impact on your results. And they can, in fact, make the difference between hitting your goals and not moving forward at all.

Alright, so in this article, I’ll cover the question (you see what I mean?): how do I ask the right questions for effective learning?

Why Is Asking the Right Questions Important for Effective Learning?

Before we look at the “how,” let’s first talk about why it’s so important to ask the right questions for effective learning.

1. Questions Lead to Answers

As mentioned before, you can’t learn or move forward without asking questions. Just imagine if you start a new job and you never asked anything at all. Would you ever be able to do a good job?

Sure, you might be lucky and get all your instructions delivered on a silver platter. But even if that’s the case, what will you do with very specific situations that weren’t covered in the instructions? Or what will you do with constructive criticism from your boss?

If you just take that and then only do exactly what your boss said without ever questioning what they really meant, will you really be able to improve your work?

Okay, I think you get the point. You need answers for effective learning and improvement. And the only way to get them is through asking questions.

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2. Asking the Right Questions Will Help You Be Successful

Asking the right questions will also significantly improve your chances of being successful.

Let’s take another example. Let’s say you want to build your own business. How do you start? That’s right—that’s the first good question to ask yourself. After that, a lot of your success depends on what you’re asking yourself and others.

Now, let’s compare two kinds of questions. Let’s say you get stuck in your business building process. You could ask yourself: “why doesn’t this work for me?” Or you could ask yourself “how can I make this work for me?”

Do you see the difference? The second question is an empowering one that will guide you to success. Of course, you need to be relentless and motivated to actually find a solution. But simply asking yourself this kind of question will significantly improve your chances for success.

The first question, on the other hand, is a rather disempowering one. It puts you in a victim role where you feel sorry for yourself rather than in a position to look for a solution. And have you ever seen someone who’s victimizing themself be successful? I sure haven’t!

3. Communication Is Key for Improvement

Now, let’s quickly look at another important aspect regarding questions addressed to other people.

Good communication is essential for improvement, good relationships, and success. And that can literally be applied to any kind of situation. Be it your job, your business, your marriage, or with your friends, good communication is the foundation for healthy relationships.

Effective communication requires active listening more than anything else. But what does that mean?

It means to ask questions and then actually listen to what the other person has to say. This will not only help you improve your relationship with other people—and, therefore, help you move forward in your professional and personal life—but it will also help you gain a lot of knowledge, which is undoubtedly the most effective kind of learning.

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People love to talk about themselves. So, you only need to find people who have the answers to your questions and then listen in an active way. And boom, you probably just shortened your learning curve by 50%.

What Is Effective Learning?

Okay, I’d like to quickly touch on one more important thing before we talk about how you can ask the right questions. And that is, “what is effective learning?”

Contrary to common belief, we don’t stop learning after college. In school, we’re basically forced to learn certain topics. But it’s actually after this period that the really interesting learning period starts. Once you’re out of school, you can completely choose what things you want to learn yourself, and this is where effective learning really starts

The best example is laid out in Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. In his book, he explains that the only way you can move forward in today’s economy is to learn hard things at a fast pace. He specifically talks about today’s economy because things are changing faster than ever. You can’t stay stuck with 10-year old technology or you’ll soon be left behind in our fast-paced world.

So, this is basically what effective learning means—learning hard and relevant things at a fast pace.

How to Ask the Right Questions for Effective Learning

Alright, so now that you understand the importance of asking the right questions and what effective learning means, let’s put it all together.

So, here’s how to ask the right questions for effective learning.

1. Start by Asking Yourself

As mentioned before, the most important aspect is to actually start by asking yourself the right kind of questions. Pay attention to always ask empowering questions—meaning, questions that are solution-oriented.

These are often “how” questions. For instance:

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  • “How can I achieve my goal?”
  • “How can I make a better job?”
  • “How can I best use this resource?”

Avoid disempowering, victimizing questions. It’s sometimes hard to even detect those because we’re often asking ourselves these kinds of questions without even noticing.

This usually happens when we’re frustrated with a situation. These kinds of questions focus on why you’re in such a bad situation and absolutely ignore the possibility of a solution. These are often “why” questions. Here are a few examples:

  • “Why did this happen to me?”
  • “Why is everyone else successful except me?”
  • “Why can’t I be lucky for once?”

2. Ask the Right People

Once you’ve managed to ask yourself the right questions, it’s time to focus on what to ask other people. But it’s not only about what to ask. It’s also about whom to address it to.

To promote effective learning, you need to ask the right people. These are people who have gone before you and who have achieved what you want to achieve. It doesn’t even need to be in person. Reading their books and wondering “what made them successful?” is a great way to start. If you can, totally opt in for asking those people in person, though. These can become your mentors or role models who will make effective learning significantly easier.

To find the right people to ask, first determine your goal for this conversation. What do you want to learn? What do you want to achieve with that knowledge? Then, find people who have already achieved that.

3. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Once you have found the right people, it’s important to also phrase your questions the right way. That means asking open-ended questions.

As mentioned before, people love talking about themselves and their achievements. And by asking open-ended questions, you allow them to share as much as possible. This is especially great to start a conversation as it will get you a lot of information right from the get-go. Later down the road, you can ask more specific questions to get the amount of detail you need.

Great open-ended questions are: “how did you achieve (a milestone)?”; “what are the best tools to be successful?” “what helped you be so successful?”

Make sure to enter your specific goal or their success in those questions. For instance, you could ask your boss, “what helped you get promoted after only working for the company for a year?”

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4. Practice Active Listening

Active listening is an insanely powerful skill. You can “extract” all of a person’s knowledge simply by listening and asking more open-ended questions that allow them to share even more of their experience and knowledge.

Practice it with your friends or spouse. Set an intention of just listening for 10 minutes. During this time, only ask questions that allow them to talk about themselves. Don’t interrupt them and only ask deeper questions after they finished answering.

After that, think about how much you just learned about the other person. Plus, you probably made the other person feel really good and flattered. This in turn will make it easier to get even more answers from them in the future.

Once you feel comfortable, try this with one of your mentors. Believe me, they’ll love you for it, and you’ll get your answers much faster that way.

5. Focus on the Solution

One last point: always focus on the solution when asking any kind of question. This goes for asking yourself but also when asking other people.

Your subconscious will automatically guide you towards what you’re focusing on.[1] If you’re focusing on the risks or on what could go wrong, guess where you’ll end up? Right there!

If you focus on solutions and see struggles as opportunities to learn more, you’ll always end up finding solutions for any kind of problem or issue. So, asking the right questions is all about being solution-oriented and focusing on the opportunities rather than the risks.

Conclusion

Asking the right questions is not only essential for effective learning—aka learning hard things at a fast pace—but it’s also key to improving in any personal or professional area of your life.

There are two important aspects of asking the right questions. The first is about what kind of questions you ask yourself. Make sure to keep them empowering and solution-oriented. This will help guide you to success instead of keeping you stuck with a problem.

The second aspect is to ask the right kind of people to get answers that will help you achieve your goals. Make sure to find people who have gone before you. Then, ask them open-ended questions and practice active listening to learn as much as possible from them.

More Tips on Asking Questions

Featured photo credit: Product School via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Caroline Dougoud

Productivity and Lifestyle Design Coach helping busy entrepreneurs and professionals get back control of their time and results

How To Ask the Right Questions For Effective Learning

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Last Updated on April 26, 2021

How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?

How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?

One of the biggest realizations I had as a kid is that teaching in school could be hit or miss for students. We all have our own different types of learning styles. Even when I was in study groups, we all had our own ways of uncovering solutions to questions.

It wasn’t only until later in my life did I realize how important it is to know your own learning style. As soon as you know how you learn and the best way to learn, you can better retain information. This information could be crucial to your job, future promotions, and overall excelling in life.

Best of all about this information is that, it’s not hard to figure out what works best for you. There are broad categories of learning styles, so it’s a matter of finding which one we gravitate towards most.

What Are the Types of Learning Styles?

Before we get into the types of learning styles, there’s one thing to know:

We all learn through repetition.

No matter how old you are, studies show that repetition allows us to retain and learn new information.[1] The big question now is what kind of repetition is needed. After all, we all learn and process information differently.

This is where the types of learning styles come in. There are eight in total and there is one or two that we prefer over others. This is important because when reading these learning styles, you’ll feel like you’d prefer a mixture of these styles.

That’s because we do prefer a combination. Though there will be one style that will be more predominate over the others. The key is finding which one it is.

Visual Learning

A visual learner (also known as the spatial learner) excels at deciphering anything visual – typically maps and graphs.

If you are this type of learner, you likely excelled at geometry in math class but struggled with arithmetic and numbers. To this day, you might also struggle with reading and writing to a degree.

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While visual learners are described as “late bloomers,” they are highly imaginative. They also process what they see much faster than what they hear.

Verbal Learning

Verbal learning, on the other hand, is learning through what’s spoken. Verbal learners excel in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Because of that, they are likely the ones to find thrills in tongue twists, word games, and puns.

They also thoroughly enjoy drama, writing, and speech classes. But give them maps, or challenge them to think outside of the box and they’ll struggle a bit.

Logical Learning

Not to be confused with visual learners, these learners are good at math and logic puzzles. Anything involving numbers or other abstract visual information is where they excel.

They can also analyze cause and effect relationships quite well. Part of that is due to their thinking process being linear.

Another big difference is their need to quantify everything. These people love grouping information, creating specific lists, agendas or itineraries.

They also have a love for strategy games and making calculations in their heads.

Auditory Learning

Similar to verbal learning, this type of learning style focuses on sounds on a deeper level. These people think chronologically and excel more in the step-by-step methods. These are likely the people who will watch Youtube videos to learn or do something the most.

These learners also have a great memory of conversations and love debates and discussions. Chances are likely these people excel at anything oral.

Also as the name suggests, these individuals have great musical talents. They can decern notes, instruments, rhythms and tones. That being said, they will have a tough time interpreting body language, expressions and gestures. This also applies to charts, maps and graphs.

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Social Learning

Otherwise known as the interpersonal learner, their skills are really unique. They don’t particularly excel in classrooms but rather through talking to other people.

These are the people who are excited for group conversations or group projects. Mainly because they are gifted with coming up with ideas and discussing them.

They also have a good understanding of people’s emotions, facial expressions, and relationship dynamics. They are also likely the first people to point out the root causes of communication issues.

Intrapersonal Learning

The reverse of interpersonal learning, these people prefer learning alone. These are the people who love self-study and working alone. Typically, intrapersonal learners are deeply in tune with themselves meaning they know who they are, their feelings, and their own capabilities.

This type of learning style means you love learning something on your own and typically every day. You also have innate skills in managing yourself and indulging in self-reflection.

Physical Learning

Also known as kinesthetic learning, these people love doing things with their hands. These are people who loved pottery or shop class. If you’re a physical learner, you’ll find you have a huge preference in using your body in order to learn.

This means not just pottery or shop class you enjoyed. You may also have loved sports or any other art medium like painting or woodwork. Anything that involved you learning through physical manipulation you enjoyed and excelled at.

Though this doesn’t just apply to direct physical activities. A physical learner may also find that they learn well when both reading on any subject and pacing or bouncing your leg at the same time.

Naturalistic Learning

The final learning style is naturalistic. These are people who process information through patterns in nature. They also apply scientific reasoning in order to understand living creatures.

Not many people may be connected to this one out of the types of learning styles primarily because of those facts. Furthermore, those who excel in this learning end up being farmers, naturalists or scientists.

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These are the people who love everything with nature. They appreciate plants, animals, and rural settings deeply compared to others.

How to Know Which One(s) Suit You Better?

So now that you have an idea of all the types of learning styles we have another question:

Which one(s) are best for you?

As a reminder, all of us learn through a combination of these learning styles. This makes pinpointing these styles difficult since our learning is likely a fusion of two or more of those styles.

Fortunately, there are all kinds of methods to narrow down which learner you are. Let’s explore the most popular one: the VARK model.

VARK Model

Developed by Neil Fleming and David Baume, the VARK model is basically a conversation starter for teachers and learners.[2] It takes the eight types of learning styles above and condenses them into four categories:

  • Visual – those who learn from sight.
  • Auditory – those who learn from hearing.
  • Reading/writing – those who learn from reading and writing.
  • Kinesthetic – those who learn from doing and moving.

As you can probably tell, VARK comes from the first letter of each style.

But why use this particular model?

This model was created not only for discussion purposes but for learners to know a few key things — namely understanding how they learn.

Because our school system is focusing on a one-size-fits-all model, there are many of us who struggle learning in school. While we may no longer go to school, these behaviors persisted into our adult lives regardless. While we aren’t learning about algebra or science, we may be learning new things about our job or industry. Knowing how to best retain that information for the future helps in so many ways.

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As such, it can be frustrating when we’re in a classroom setting and aren’t understanding anything. That or maybe we’re listening to a speech or reading a book and have no clue what’s going on.

This is where VARK comes back in. To quote Fleming and Baume:

“VARK above all is designed to be a starting place for a conversation among teachers and learners about learning. It can also be a catalyst for staff development- thinking about strategies for teaching different groups can lead to more, and appropriate, variety of learning and teaching.”

Getting into the specifics, this is what’s known as metacognition.[3] It helps you to understand how you learn and who you are. Think of it as a higher order of thinking that takes control over how you learn. It’s impossible to not use this while learning.

But because of that metacognition, we can pinpoint the different types of learning styles that we use. More importantly, what style we prefer over others.

Ask These Questions

One other method that I’ll mention is the research that’s done at the University of Waterloo.[4] If you don’t want to be using a lot of brainpower to pinpoint, consider this method.

The idea with this method is to answer a few questions. Since our learning is a combination of styles, you’ll find yourself leaning to one side over the other with these questions:

  • The active/reflective scale: How do you prefer to process information?
  • The sensing/intuitive scale: How do you prefer to take in information?
  • The visual/verbal scale: How do you prefer information to be presented?
  • The sequential/global scale: How do you prefer to organize information?

This can narrow down how you learn and provide some other practical tips for enhancing your learning experience.

Final Thoughts

Even though we have a preferred style of learning and knowing what that is is beneficial, learning isn’t about restriction. Our learning style shouldn’t be the sole learning style we rely on all the time.

Our brain is made of various parts and whatever style we learn activates certain parts of the brain. Because of this fact, it would be wise to consider other methods of learning and to give them a try.

Each method I mentioned has its merits and there’s not one dominate or superior method. What method we like is entirely up to our preferences. So be flexible with those preferences and uncover what style works best for you.

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Featured photo credit: Anna Earl via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] BrainScape: Repetition is the mother of all learning
[2] Neil Fleming and David Baume: VARKing Up the Right Tree
[3] ERIC: Metacognition: An Overview
[4] University of Waterloo: Understanding Your Learning Style

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