…is wanting to ‘get beneath the surface’ and ‘dig deeper’; the opposite is being ‘passive’


This is about my desire to investigate, find more out and ask questions, especially ‘Why?’ If I am a curious learner, I won’t simply accept what I am told without wanting to know for myself whether and why it’s true. I might challenge what friends, leaders, parents, teachers, colleagues say, rather than take it at face value. I want to know the reason for everything, as young children often do.

Learners with less Curiosity might be present and involved in learning activities, but relatively passive, expecting others to tell them or show them what to do and how to improve rather than working things out for themselves or finding things out for the group.

Effective learners have energy and a desire to find things out. They like to get below the surface of things and try to understand what is really going on. They value ‘getting at the truth’, and are more likely to adopt ‘deep’ rather than ‘surface’ learning strategies. They are less likely to accept what they are told uncritically, enjoy asking questions, and are more willing to reveal their questions and uncertainties in public. They like to come to their own conclusions about things, and are inclined to see knowledge, at least in part, as a product of human inquiry. They take ownership of their own learning and enjoy a challenge.

The contrast pole is passivity. Passive learners are more likely to accept what they are told uncritically and to believe that ‘received wisdom’ is usually, or always true. They are less thoughtful, and less likely to engage spontaneously in active speculation and exploratory thinking and discussion.

  • Enjoys the challenge of the unknown and confronting complexity
  • Learns by working things out, solves problems, seeks out information and understanding
  • Enjoys questioning, finding out and self-directed research
  • Refuses to accept propositions at face value

  • Think like a detective: not only interested in answers but clues, patterns and incongruities
  • Look for opportunities to:
  • Ask questions at work, of fellow learners first if it’s easier, then your manager(s)
  • Say, respectfully, “I’m not sure I agree with that” and challenge people to explain and justify their opinions
  • Tell your manager or tutor what you’re up to and ask for encouragement
  • Practise climbing the ‘Why?’ Ladder:
  • Think of a question – e.g. “Why do I work so hard?”
  • Think of an answer – e.g. “It’s expected of me!
  • Ask “Why is it expected of me?”
  • Think of an answer… and so on!
  • See how far you get. Write it down if you like.
  • Keep a dictionary nearby and pounce on words you don’t understand – so you do now! Use your existing contacts and resources to create a ‘learning at work glossary’.
  • Welcome the feeling of being challenged or perplexed and use it to drive your learning forward, like a quest for the light!
  • Play with ‘What if…’ scenarios - as all businesses have to do in ‘future planning’ – building the competency to ‘find solutions’.
  • Ask your manager to help you create an open climate – e.g. ‘no criticism allowed!’ – so that you are able to speculate, try out ‘whacky’ ideas on each other and ask ‘What if…?’ and ‘Why?’ questions with confidence.