17. Example: Learning a Skill

17.Example: Learning a Skill

Who wants to learn a skill? What desires are they trying to satisfy by performing the task of learning?

  • Pass a test
  • Perform a task
  • Make a decision
  • Learn something else
  • Teach it
  • Entertainment
  • Share an experience

Look at the different reasons for learning a skill. Are the reasons satisfied in the same way? Can we group them into functionally similar reasons? Are the differences qualitative or quantitative?

There appear to be two different types of reasons to learn a skill. The first is practical and the second is social.

The practical reasons for learning a skill are different from each other based on level of skill needed when complete. They can be ranked in order:

  1. Able to make a decision
  2. Perform a task
  3. Pass a test
  4. Learn another skill
  5. Teach the subject

Even though the skill levels needed are ranked, there isn’t a clear unit of measure so we can’t quantitatively measure the differences. The difference is by qualitative type.

The social reasons, Entertainment and Share an Experience, are satisfied in different ways from the practical reasons. Even though learning the skill is desirable it is not essential to being entertained or sharing an experience. Enjoying the process is an essential Outcome for the social reasons. Enjoyment is beneficial but not required for the purely practical reasons to learn a skill so there is an overlap.

Learning a Skill Outcome Diagram

Drawing 1: Learning a Skill Outcome Diagram

Since there are two different sets of Outcomes lets start with the practical reasons. Draw an Outcome diagram for the task. These Outcomes define successfully performing the task.

The Outcomes for Learning a Skill do not include all related Outcomes. Motivation to learn and perception of the process of learning are factors that should be considered but are not essential to the core set of Outcomes.

The Outcome diagram defines the Objects. The next step is to draw a Function diagram for the process of achieving the Outcomes. The last step of a Function diagram is achieving an Outcome.

Learn a Skill Function DiagramDrawing 2: Learning a Skill Function Diagram

Consider that you might need a Function diagram for each Outcome.


Expand the Elements for each of the Outcomes and each of the Functions. Element expansion is a form of structured idea generation. It is not free-form. The goal is to list items for each of the 7 Elements, which are related to the Outcomes and Functions. This focuses your work and keeps it organized for finding patterns later.

Since many people are accustomed to brainstorming it can be helpful to temporarily skip the Outcome and Function diagram, and start by listing Elements. This can help people clarify their thinking before drawing the Function diagram.

You will need some knowledge of the subject matter you are innovating to be able to identify Elements. If you are innovating an engine you will need to understand some amount of mechanics.

Gather new informationLearn Function Diagram: Gather New Information


  • Learner
  • Information

Begin and End States

There are several combinations of these begin and End States. Depending on the purpose what is desired, undesired, and neutral changes.

  • No information is gathered
  • Related information is gathered
  • Some of information is gathered
  • All the information is gathered
  • Extra information is gathered, not relevant
  • Incorrect information is gathered, not factual


Read, Watch, Hear, Touch, Do it, Taste, Smell, Imagine, Measure


Books, magazines, websites, radio, TV, video, pictures, audio recordings, lectures, demonstrations, games, models, activities, samples, measurement devices, tests.


Purpose, demographics, health of learner, other knowledge, past experiences, distractions, time available, comfort, emotions, format of information, language, physical environment, quality of information (incomplete or incorrect)


Medium of information, learner, other knowledge, emotions, physical environment, lecturer, friends, all of the Conditions.

Interpret informationLearn Function Diagram: Interpret Information


  • Learner
  • Information
  • Meaning

Begin and End States

  • No understanding
  • Incorrect interpretation, misunderstood
  • Partially understood
  • Fully understood


Compare & contrast, Questions and answers, Thought experiment


Logic, restating in own words, lists, diagrams, conversations, email, text chat, phone, if…then statements, language, symbols


Purpose, demographics, health of learner, other knowledge, past experiences, distractions, time available, comfort, emotions, format of information, language


All the Conditions, learner, emotions, physical environment, teacher, friends

PracticeLearn Function Diagram: Practice


  • Learner
  • Skill level

Begin and End States

  • No skill
  • Some skill
  • Full skill


Play, simulation, exercise, do the real thing, mental rehearsal


Games, simulation, real thing, simplified version of real thing, slow motion, weights, puzzles


Difficulty of task, environment, health of learner


Objective measures of ability: time to complete an exercise, complexity of exercise completed, percentage of accurate results; measure of the difficulty of a type of practice: number of variables, amount of time given to complete task, number of mistakes allowed.

Achieve AbilityLearn Function Diagram: Achieve Ability

The final step in the Function diagram is satisfying both of the Outcomes of the Outcome diagram. Achieve Ability is complete when the learner can perform the task and does not need assistance.


  • Skill Level
  • Learner

Begin and End States

There might not be a quantitative measure for ability but it can be broken down into four functionally distinct levels.

  • No ability
  • Some ability
  • Adequate ability
  • Maximum ability


Do a task

Complete a test


Test, Questions, Measurement, Score, Mirror, Camera


Time available, level of other abilities, number of skills being learned, wording of the test, time between receiving feedback


Feedback from others, results of previous attempts


Learner is involved in every Outcome in Learning a Skill; so, it makes sense to start finding Alternatives for Learner.

When I first tried to apply the Directions to Learner I was confused. I had difficulty figuring out what was a direct Learner versus a Stable Learner. The problem was I needed to chunk down Learner into Person and Learning. A learner is a person who is learning. Once I chunked down into the two parts it was easy to figure out. Chunking up and down is a useful approach to remember.

Person Alternatives






Single person instructed

Instructed once


Prohibited Class or individual

Learns how to find person who can do it


Individual discovers skill

One person always learns

Single learns until a point

Single person learns existing information

Individual returns to learning

Skills restored for an individual


Many people instructed

Instructed many times

Many observers

Learn to find many people who can do it

Many prohibited people

Group teaches

Group makes discovery

Many people always learn

Many people learn until a point

Many people learn existing information

Learn existing information as a group

Group returns to learning

Many people return to learning

Skills are restored for many people

Everyone instructed

Continually instructed, never independent

Everyone learns by observing

Everyone prohibited

Everyone teaches

Everyone discovers for themselves

Everyone always learns

Everyone learns until a point then stops

Everyone learns existing information

Everyone returns to learning

No one returns to learning

Learning Alternatives






Commanded one time

Commanded for one task

Commanded for one part of task

Individual doing other activity

Doing one other activity

Doing other activity once


Replace incorrect


Already learned

Apply existing knowledge

Teach someone else

Skill becomes permanent

Skill becomes permanent after single time

Part of skill becomes permanent

Regain single skill

Regain skill once

Single reminder


Commanded for part of task

Commanded many times

Doing many other activities

Doing pieces of other activities

Replace many incorrect

Many steps to replace incorrect

Already know some of skill

Already know many skills

Teach many people

Teach many skills

Many skills become permanent

Skill becomes permanent after many times

Skills become permanent in multiple parts

Regain many skills

Regain skill many times

Many reminders

Commanded for everything

Commanded for entire task

Commanded until remembered

Doing every other activity

Doing any other activity

Do nothing, passive learning

Continuously replace incorrect

Replace all incorrect

Already know everything

Already know nothing

Already know anything

Teach everything

All skills become permanent

No skills become permanent

Any skill becomes permanent

Entire skill becomes permanent

Continually regaining skill

Everyone regaining skills

Regain any skill

Reminders for everything

Always reminded

Information Alternatives






Next step

Information to remember

One more detail

Custom information


Grade / performance

What not to do, contrast

How to find information

Reason for skill



Single fact


One gains acceptance

Remembered after first time

Reminder, flash card

Information changes once

One part changes



Multiple steps

Some steps

Many new things

Many parts are new

More information many things

Many theories

Information about the information

Multiple ways to find the information

Partially correct

Multiple grades

Multiple reminders

Partial reminder

Multiple facts

Repeated information

Partial history

Told many times before remembered

Many things remembered

Accepted as fact for many Conditions

Many parts change

Changes many times

Many parts uncertain

All steps

Always new information

No steps

Applies to everyone

All information about the information

Totally false


Continual grading

Never reminded

Always reminding

Always same information

Complete history

All information remembered


Becomes considered law

Information always changing



Meaning Alternatives






Plain single meaning

Meaningful in one Condition

Increase meaning

Told meaning

Correct meaning

Indirect meaning


Opposite / Sarcasm

One thing unknown

Confused about one thing

Same meaning

Doesn’t change for one Condition

One meaning stays the same

Takes time to understand

Situational meaning

Meaning changes once

Understands after one error


Plain meaning multiple Conditions

Increases meaning multiple Conditions

Many things increase meaning

Multiple implications

Contradictory meanings

Partially wrong meaning

Wrong meaning many things

Same meaning many Conditions

Many meaning stay the same

Parts of meaning stay the same

Partially understood

Multiple exposures to understand

Multiple parts before understanding

Part of information before understanding

Corrects meaning many times/ways

Meaning changes many Conditions

Parts change meaning

No meaning

Always increasing meaning

Increase meaning everything

Unknown meaning

Meaning is hidden

Totally confused

Totally wrong

Same meaning all situations

Always understood

Understood by everyone

Needs all to understand

Understands everything

Always relearn

Meaning constantly changing

Everything changes meaning

Always becomes clear again

Skill Level Alternatives

Skill Level





Skill level improves once

One part of skill improves

Skill decreases

Other skill change

Task becomes easier

One part of task becomes harder (exercise)

Single skill level stays the same

Skill same in one situation

One skill increases to point (learn once)

Skill increases to a point for one Condition

Skill level fluctuates once

One skill level fluctuates


Many skills improve

Skill improves many times

Skill partially improves

Many other skills change

Skill decreases many times

Parts of task become harder

Parts of task become easier

Partial skill level stays the same

Multiple skill levels stay the same

Skill same in many situations

Multiple skill levels increase to point

Skill plateaus multiple times

Skill level fluctuates many times

Many skill levels fluctuate

Skill level always improves

Completely loses skill

Improves all other skills

Task eliminated

Skill level never changes

Skill same in all situations

Maximum skill level achieved

All skills increased to a point

Become expert in all aspects

Skill level never consistent

Continuous practice needed

Gather Information Alternatives

Gather information





Do it, experience, see yourself

Read, told, watch video, theory

Fixed belief, one thing, one time

Consistent once

Confirm belief once

Single change or difference

Average one variable


Repeat experience

Experience many things directly

Many indirect sources

Indirectly experience many things


Fixed belief, many things

Consistent many times

Confirm belief many times

Confirm many beliefs

Many changes or differences

Average many variables

Moving average

Experience everything

Experience anything

No direct experience

Believes everything, never changes

Confirm all beliefs

All differences

Rate of change

Practice Alternatives






Real thing once

Imagine, simulation

One type of practice

Single Test



Real thing many times

Parts of real

Simulate multiple aspects

Do same thing many times

Repeat different parts

Multiple tests

Occasionally different


Always real

Any real

Simulate all aspects

Same thing every time


Continually testing

Test everything

Constantly changing

Achieve Ability Alternatives

Achieve ability





Do it once

First try

Simulation once

Lose ability once

Complete practice once

Test completed once



Done many times

Do pieces

Multiple simulations

Lose many abilities

Complete practice multiple times

Multiple tests completed

Many re-certifications

Done all aspects

All aspects simulated

Any aspect simulated

Lose all ability

Lose any ability

Complete all practice

All tests completed

Perfect score on test

Test before each time

Chapter 16 Chapter 18


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