What-if Learners

A what-if learner learns by asking a set of what-if questions. This means that the learner has a conceptual understanding about the topic being taught/discussed. You will find different types of what-if learners in the organization.

“What If?” learners learn by testing your ideas while you’re teaching. Leave room for them to discuss some of the options you considered. They want to know if you’ve tried any of the ideas they might have come up with, and then, if you have, what happened.

1. Peers who want to know why this design is chosen or decision made

2. Managers trying to understand the boundaries of your proposal or suggestion

3. Management playing out different scenarios

4. Almost everyone exploring the subject, looking at alternatives, trying to find problems

In the end  both the teacher and learner end up learning from a session on what-if learning.

Sometimes the best ways to teach to this style of learner is to have an agenda or outline as a focusing tool. If your “What If?” learner asks a question in topic four that you know you’re going to address in topic eight, you can use this three-step technique:

  1. Acknowledge the question: I am going to address your question.

  2. State exactly where, specifically you’ll answer it: I’m going to talk about it in Step 8.

  3. Give permission for the “What If?” learner to ask the question again: If I don’t answer your question in Step 8, will you please raise it again?

I’ve also heard “What If?” learners ask to be put on challenging problems as a way of learning. Such learners do well with scenario-based questions: How could you improve this process? Or, how else could you use this tool? They like turning the problem around in their minds and considering all the ways it could be solved. They can talk with you about their thinking, and you can guide them toward the right approach. Be sure to listen to their ideas along the way! They’re often very creative; you might just hear something that is an improvement.

Reference: Teach What You Know: A Practical Leader’s Guide to Knowledge Transfer Using Peer Mentoring

About: Steve Trautman