L&D: Learning To Learn

Asking – Answering – Checking Answers to Questions

According to Brethower and Smalley – in their book:

Dale Brethower and Karolyn Smalley
Performance-Based Instruction: Linking Training to Business Results
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998


3 Excerpts from the Book Review by Charles Bishop

The authors, Dale Brethower and Karolyn Smalley–the former a professor of psychology at Western Michigan University and the latter a management consultant and former human resource development administrator–argue that applying the principles of performance-based instruction will improve productivity in both the workplace and the classroom.

Part One outlines a “practical approach to training issues” by essentially detailing in workbook fashion how to answer behavioral objectives guru Robert Mager’s three questions: 1) Where am I going; 2) How shall I get there; and 3) How will I know when I’ve arrived? The importance of teamwork, guided observation and guided practice, the demonstration of mastery and the often discussed implications of the Hawthorne Effect are included in this section.

Part Two suggests how organizations can become performance-based through the application of principles outlined in the work of Marcia Heiman and J. Slomianko in their book Learning to Learn: Critical Thinking Skills for the Quality Workforce (1994), the title of which is copyrighted as an educational process and used repeatedly as a mantra during Brethower’s and Smalley’s discussion.

What is “learning to learn”? As briefly defined by the authors, “. . .the full process is asking, answering, and checking answers to questions” (p. 161). Of course, the method also weaves into the process a learner-centered classroom focus, a teacher model emphasizing facilitation and guidance rather than “sage on the stage,” and measurable instructional outcomes–themes that have been popular in schools of education and among behavioral psychologists since the 1960s (and much before that in the work of psychologists John Watson, B.F. Skinner and Fred Keller).

PDF of the full Bishop book review: PB Instruction – Book Review by C Bishop


I had read this book soon after it came out and I discussed the concept of Learning to Learn with Dale – whom I’ve know since the early 1980s via NSPI/ISPI. I even served on his board when he was President of ISPI in 1999.

I did not have access to most of the references and resources Dr. Dale pointed me to back then – and I am unable to find those that I did access in my files today. But here are some other online sources for your follow up – including his and wife Karolyn’s book:

Performance-Based Instruction: https://www.amazon.com/Performance-Based-Instruction-Microsoft-Word-diskette/dp/0787911194

Behavior Analysis of Human Learning:  https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jjba/9/1/9_KJ00001021552/_pdf

Performance-based instruction part 4: Assuring that learning occurs and transfers to the job: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pfi.4170310613/full

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