A lesson in instructional design from a two-year-oldBeing a Mum is one of the most challenging and rewarding learning journeys I have undertaken in my life so far, particularly at the moment because about two weeks ago my son learned the word “why?”.

I knew this time would come and it is exactly as I imagined it would be; creative, frustrating, mentally exhausting, but also enlightening.  You see, we take so much of our world for granted, when you have a little someone question everything you do – and I mean everything! – it does make you stop and think a bit more.  It’s my job to educate this tiny person, so my responses are considered, concise and sometimes I even surprise myself with what I know!

And it got me thinking.  Do we ask “why?” often enough in the process of designing learning?  I know in my business we have learned to ask lots and lots of questions at every stage in a project to make sure we’re not missing anything and that we’re on the right track, but the “why?” question can often be the key to unlocking the secret of how to create a piece of learning that really makes a difference.

So here are some suggestions for the effective use of “why?” you can try out when designing your next solution:

  • When you next get tasked with creating a new learning program, ask “why?”.  Get the business thinking about what problem the learning is solving and how it is contributing to the achievement of strategic business goals.
  • When a stakeholder tells you that this piece of learning you are designing must be 30 minutes duration, ask them “why?” because you may find it could be shorter.
  • When you are getting information from SMEs ask “why are things done that way?” or “why would they push this button rather than that button?” or “why is it essential to cover that topic in so much detail?”
  • When you are asked to make amendments to a deliverable following a review, ask “why is it important to make those changes?” because sometimes you may find they are not required after all or relate to something else you weren’t aware of.
  • When you evaluate learning, don’t just ask if learners enjoyed the program ask “why?” they enjoyed it.  Don’t just ask them to tell you the top three things they learned, ask “why those three things?” to find out what it was that made those points stick.

Thank you to my Little Bean for being the inspiration for this post.  And as for the rest of you, get out there, start asking “why?” and if you find out anything interesting please share it with us below!