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Yi Article Review 1

RUNNING HEAD: Yi Article Review

Effective Ways to Foster Learning by J. Yi: Article Review

J. Autumn Barker

August 20, 2009

EDU 515
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• Summary

Written in 2005, “Effective Ways to Foster Learning” by Yi was published in

Performance Improvement. This article explores the ways that companies when training should

approach teaching adult learners. Because of the information age upon the business world today,

it is important that employees be able to think outside the box, creatively solve issues and

problems, work together in teams, and make shared informed decisions. To meet these needs, it

is imperative that employees enhance themselves through learning the skills of problem solving,

interpersonal relationships, cooperation, and the necessary technological proficiencies. Yi

believes that there are three major instructional strategies that trainers should utilize to teach

adults: problem-based learning, cooperative learning, and situated learning.

Yi continues the article by exploring the unique and specialized ways to teach adult

learners. Adult learners differ from children because they are self-directed, goal focused,

centered on the task at hand, and are more intrinsically motivated. While there is not a line

drawn between adult and children learners, the differences are clearly there.

Yi also takes the time to clearly explain the author’s beliefs about knowledge and

learning. The author states that they clearly take the constructivist model to learning and

knowledge. In this model, learning takes the role of a process through which the student and

their environment interact, believing that knowledge is created through the student giving

meaning to their experiences.

As reviewed before, employees/adult learners need to be able to think outside the box,

have good problem solving skills, and share in decision making. Yi believes that there are three

general methods that can serve to address these needs: problem based learning, cooperative
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learning, and situated learning. These methods should be deliberate in nature and will help to

facilitate the skill acquisition necessary.

Beginning in the medical field, problem based learning has now been transferred to the

corporate business world. In this method of learning, problems drive the learning process.

Problems are chosen that could actually happen in the workplace and they are usually poorly

defined, which leaves the learners confused and uncertain about the approach to take. It is

through situations like this one that learners develop critical thinking skills, self-directed

learning, and problem-based knowledge. Using this method in a training program is practical

because the employees then will have the ability to solve job-related real-world problems.

Problem based learning has been shown to improve reasoning skills, help develop critical

thinking and problem solving, while also providing a challenging learning environment.

Problem based learning is based on the constructivist design. This is because this method allows

students to move beyond the information given and relate the activities to larger tasks. This

process is also positive because much of adult learning is task or problem centered anyway.

While this method of learning seems to be a great idea for adults, it has some limitations.

Through empirical research, it has not always guaranteed problem-solving skills have been

cultivated. The critical factor in the success of this method is having a facilitating instructor.

The instructor should be supportive and guide the learners to answer their own questions, not just

simply answering the questions asked. This insures that the adults are taking on more

responsibility for their own learning.

In problem based learning, the process used to insure that the learning is taking place

comes from several steps and activities. The learning process begins with the instructor giving

learners are real problem that the student then investigate and discuss the problem using the
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knowledge they possess. The learners then pinpoint the gap in knowledge – between what they

already know and what is necessary that they know to solve the problem. The learners then

study and gather materials that can help close the gap in knowledge. The instructor is available

to help in this process. After the students have studied and gathered the materials, they meet

back in their group to share the information they have learned. They then use the information

and knowledge they have to solve the problem together. This process is evaluated based on if the

learning goals were met through the group’s work.

The next method that Yi explains is cooperative learning. This method employs small

groups that work together to achieve common learning goals. This method only works if the

group communicates and discusses ideas which lead to meaningful interactions and retention of

material. There are four very important characteristics necessary to provide meaningful

cooperative learning. The first quality is positive interdependence of learners. The group

members must rely on one another to achieve the common learning goal that they have set.

Instructors can aide in this by assigning roles to each group member, setting the mutually shared

learning goals, and sharing resources. The next element necessary to cooperative learning is

face-to-face proniotive interaction. Because learners help and support each other’s efforts,

instructors should explain that it is very important that they share information to support each

other in solving the problems and learning. By providing face-to-face discussion time, the

learners can help the other group members learn. Individual accountability is another

characteristic necessary for cooperative learning to succeed. Each of the group members has

been given a responsibility and keeping each member accountable for their contributions is

important. If during the process this becomes a problem, assessing individual performance and

discussing contributions could be necessary. The fourth of the essential qualities for cooperative
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learning is group processing. Reviewing the group’s progress and trying to improve it can help

to make sure all of the learning goals have been met at each stage in the learning process.

Reviewing what each member contributed is also important at this step.

Cooperative learning is a great way to implement training programs because as the

information age has led corporations to be increasingly collaborative, this process aids in

building those relationships, working in a group, providing feedback, and developing

interpersonal skills. Constructivists encourage the use of cooperative learning because it uses

small cooperative groups to aid in learning. In many cases, one person’s learning depends on

others in the group providing help or discussion. Cooperative learning also uses the accumulated

knowledge of adult learners. So many group members have seen or experienced different things

that sharing in groups aids in getting a very beneficial well-rounded knowledge base.

While cooperative learning sounds as if it would be a great way to teach adults, there are

some possible problems with it. Several critics have said that cooperative learning can lead to

inefficient use of student’s time and even lower learning quality. It seems this can be the case if

no specific rules are established for groups and the group focuses solely on accomplishing the

task. Simple group work does not make for cooperative learning, cooperative learning must have

the four qualities named above to be effective.

In utilizing cooperative learning, there are several activities that must be involved.

Learners are to start with a problem or case. The instructor then explains the learning goals from

the groups and the project’s requirements. Students are then placed in small study groups of

three to five persons. The instructor continues by providing very clear instructions and

regulations for group work. The easiest way for this to be done would be to separate the main

project topic into various subtopics, then assigning a group member to each subtopic. The group
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then discusses the goals, topics, tasks, and roles necessary for the project to be completed. After

taking some time to become an expert in their subtopic, the group meets again. They then share

their knowledge and help each other. The instructor is available to assist if there is need. As the

group progresses, they update the instructor and gain feedback from them. Finally, the learners

and groups reflect on the knowledge they have gained and the problem’s solution. Evaluation

comes in the form of peer and self-evaluations throughout the process and final evaluation of the

team’s project and outcome.

The final method of learning that Yi believes is effective in the corporate world for

teaching adult learners is situated learning. This process is supported by the fact that because

knowledge is situational and can only be transferred to similar situations, knowing and doing

should not be separated. Learning experiences should match the real-world situations that

workers would encounter with both the complexity and ambiguity that could be a part of the

situation.

Experts have identified three reasons that situational learning is an important part of

training programs. Situational learning creates a classroom that is much more authentic and

similar to the real-world, where employees can become truly prepared for their work and job

functions. The more realistic the setting, the more learning that will take place. Constructivists

believe that engagement in meaningful real-world experiences is necessary and vital to learning

and because it is dependent in the problem’s context, it must be realistic. Situational learning is

also good for training programs because adult learners need to know why they are learning a

specific topic. Because situational learning relates instruction to real world problems, this fulfills

the need of the learners.


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While situational learning seems to have a great place in the world of training adults, it is

not without some problems. Not only should the unique context of learning be authentic in

nature, but the learning must also be collaborative. Collaboration is another of the keys to

situational learning and it includes cooperation among students, instructors, and experts in the

field.

The activities involved in situational learning begins with a real-world scenario. The

instructor explains the goals, requirements, and rules for the interaction. Learners select the role

they want to play in the situation and then engage in role playing with other learners or the

instructor. The instructor is available through out for assistance. In this type of learning

environment, learners learn by doing. They fulfill the roles they were assigned following the

rules set up in the beginning of the activity. Learners and the instructor share observations and

insights when the activity is over. Learners then reflect on the knowledge they have gained and

the problem’s solution. Evaluation comes in the form of degree of participation, assessment of

their performance, and perhaps a reflection paper on the process.

Each of these three methods have different goals in mind. However, they can all provide

learners the opportunity of learning how to learn, dealing with complex and real-world problems,

team work, and how to support team mate’s performance. Integrating any or all of these methods

would be effective in training programs. These methods make learning transferable to the

workplace, making for more effective and efficient employees.

• Main Point

Yi wrote this article to share ways adult learners could be trained in the corporate world.

Adults learn differently than children do and without using methods that incorporate creative

thinking, problem solving, team work, and making joint decisions, while being centered on real-
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world problems, the training could be a waste. While each of the three methods of learning have

a little different process, the end result is to have employees with critical thinking and problem

solving skills that can work well together in teams and make decisions. Yi cites another writer as

to this needing to be important in the information- Reigeluth. Each of the methods Yi cites,

problem based learning, cooperative learning, and situated learning all foster the learning

outcomes that trainers and employers are looking to enhance. Corporations are looking to

improve their employee’s problem solving, interpersonal skills, and cooperative and technical

skills. The type of instruction that the trainers choose is a deliberate arrangement of activities

and events to facilitate the learning and development of the skill set necessary for the

information age.

• Main Arguments

Yi identified the three methods of learning that the author believed would best facilitate

the learning and development of the skill set listed. Yi believes that problem based learning

would help facilitate the improvement of necessary information age skills because the problem

that learning is based off of is from the real workplace. This gives the employees the change to

solve real problems they could face on the job. Yi cites several other writers as the author

explains that problem based learning has been known to improve critical thinking and problem

solving while also providing a challenging work environment. Yi also believes that problem

based learning is crucial to training programs because adults learn with the intention of using the

knowledge and skills they acquire. Problem based learning works when trainers are seeking

improved analytical, problem-defining, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills. Another of

Yi’s suggested learning methods for meeting the information age skill sets is cooperative

learning. Cooperative learning is based on using a small group of learners working together to
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achieve a common learning goal. This method is useful because it helps learners to

communicate clearly and negotiate ideas to make them meaningful but also to retain the

information learned. This method is important because the information age has seen an increase

in joint and mutual projects in the workplace. This method is important because it emphasizes

social skills – working together, providing feedback, and building interpersonal relationships.

Research by Cole and Smith (1993) cited by Yi states that cooperative learning encourages

learners’ participation, cooperation, helpfulness, and improves communication skills. The final

model that Yi feels is best suited for working toward developing information age skills is situated

learning. Experts that believe situated learning is valuable believe that because knowledge is

situational, it can only be transferred to similar situations. They also believe that knowing should

not ever be separated from doing. Similar to problem based learning, situated learning’s

experiences should match those of the real-world. Learners should be placed in situations where

they feel the complexity, ambiguity, and uncertainty of the problems of the real-world. This

makes the classroom more authentic, preparing employees for their work. Collaboration is

another main feature of this method, but situational learning is simply a means of relating the

training’s content to the needs of the learner. This method works best to expand technical skills

that will be needed on the job.

• Discussion of Conclusion

Yi concludes this paper by saying that each of these methods can be used for different

learning outcomes that the corporation sees as necessary. They all offer ways to help the learner

learn how to learn, to deal with complex real-world problems, how to work with co-workers, and

be supportive of each other’s performance in the work place. Yi also gives very brief

explanations of others who have combined some of the methods described here to create new
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techniques that offer more of the outcomes necessary rather than just one set of them. Yi also

concludes that each of these methods could be integrated with technology, creating a technology-

based environment that might prove additionally meaningful. Each of the methods make

learning transferable from the classroom or training room to the workplace. Yi ends with the

thought that building “realistic, motivating, supportive, collaborative, flexible, and challenging

learning environments” is the key to creating new training programs, which in turn will improve

learning and performance in the workplace.

• Two Problems

Yi’s paper is very informative. However, it is not without a few problems. The list of

skills that many of the experts and Yi, too, identify as those necessary for information age

employees are not discussed clearly. While the list is there, it seems that these various methods

do not meet more than two to three of the needed skills. Problem based learning only addresses

enhanced analytical, problem-diagnosing, problem solving, and critical thinking skills.

Cooperative Learning only addressed enhanced cooperative, communication, and interpersonal

skills. The outcomes of situational learning are technical skills related to the field each employee

works within. While this is straightforward, it does not address the need for workers that are

problem-solving cooperative employees.

Yi’s paper also discusses the general attributes to each of the methods in list formation.

This is hard to read and does not lend itself well to comparison among each of the three methods.

There is flipping back and forth and in some cases, the reader may or may not find what they are

looking for.
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• Suggested Fixes

Again, while Yi’s paper is strong and informative, there are things that could be done to

strengthen the writing. While each of the methods met some but not all of the skills determined

to be necessary in the information age, it would have been more helpful if there had been more

discussion about the idea in Yi’s conclusion by Nelson (1999). Evidently, there are ways to

combine the methods making different methods like collaborative problem solving. With

corporations looking for well-rounded employees, more examples of how others have combined

these methods would have been helpful. Passing references seem to say “oh, yes, people have

successfully combined them, but I don’t know much about it”.

The general attributes of each of the methods are listed in each section. It does not lend

itself well to comparing the three methods. A great way to allow readers and learners to better

understand the information would be to create a table or chart that lists each of the outcomes

sought, the activities necessary, and evaluation process. This would allow for easy comparison

and prevent constant flipping back and forth and getting frustrated trying to define similarities

and differences.

• Potential Effects of Fixes

Yi should take the suggestions above into consideration as it would create a stronger

paper. Because this paper is geared toward trainers or corporations looking to strengthen the

skills of their employees, having ways and ideas of how more than one method combined

worked would be helpful. In some situations, perhaps trainers are only looking to improve the

learner’s level of technical skills in the field they work in. However, in many cases, trainers

don’t get much time and therefore have to pack more punch in less time. With examples of how

Nelson (1999) was able to combine problem based learning with cooperative learning, trainers
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could then be able to expect enhanced problem-diagnosing, problem solving, and critical

thinking skills, but also be able to expect improved cooperation, communication, and

interpersonal skills. This would make this article appeal to many more trainers who don’t have

multiple time frames to teach or lead one method at a time.

Creating a chart to compare each of the methods discussed in the paper would create

much easier reading on those who have to read this article. Being able to compare on one page

that this method promotes this, but this one uses these activities, would be helpful. This could

also lead trainers to be able to create a blended concept method that could work best for their

company. It would prevent the flipping back and forth between the pages to see which outcome

was listed for problem based learning and the best evaluation method for collaborative learning.

• Article Publication

Should Yi’s article be published, there are several groups that would be interested in

reading it. Instructors that teach adult learners would be interested in the paper because it does

identify different methods of teaching adults that also help to cultivate benefits in the work place.

Trainers would be interested in this paper because they are the very ones that need to make sure

the employees have the necessary skills to continue to make the business grow and succeed in

the information age. Others that could be interested in such information would be training

consultants that companies bring in to do trainings. When companies ask for certain outcomes to

be highlighted, this paper could help the consultant plan on how best to teach the group and

provide the outcomes requested.

Those that read this paper without truly thinking about the work that would need to be put

in to make sure the outcomes were met and not having a facilitating instructor to aid in this,

could take this to mean that any group work is cooperative learning. When the group was
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finished, they may expect that better communication, cooperation, and interpersonal skills would

automatically emerge. This is not the case and the reader would be sorely disappointed. In depth

reading of this article and trying to focus on how best to create learning environments that match

the needs of the company is necessary for the outcomes to be realized.


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References

Yi, J. (2005). “Effective Ways to Foster Learning”. Performance Improvement 44(1), 34-38.