Unit 3: Reflecting Practically

Reading is only the beginning of effective study. Once you have read the material, you need to begin reflecting on and thinking about what you have read. The rest of this unit is dedicated to using the CAP (Creative, Analytical, Practical) approach to thinking about what you have learned. This second section covers thinking and reflecting practically. In each unit, try to use at least two CAP exercises, listed here and in your sample Digitial Notebook.

From the moment you decided to go to college, you probably heard this complaint: "They won't teach you anything useful in college — none of it is practical."

This complaint misses the point. The best professionals aren't ones who only think practically. Instead, they're the ones who can take the best analytical and creative thinking and connect it with practical applications.

Reflecting practically includes the following questions:

The Practical Connections

As we stated above, the best professionals appreciate the importance of all three types of thinking. Practical thinking should not be separated from creative or analytical reflection.

Professionals who are practical but not creative will have trouble dealing with new situations or keeping up with change. They won't be able to find new solutions or adapt what they already know.

Professionals who are practical without being analytical are unlikely to be able to see or understand problems that their actions are causing. This lack of understanding may lead them respond to challenges in ways that aren't constructive in the long term (even if they get short term results).

Practical Thinking Exercises

Practical thinking exercises encourage you to focus on using what you have learned to solve real problems. The following exercises, which also appear in your sample Digital Notebook, can help you think in practical terms.

The List

Turn your readings for this unit into a list of 5-10 rules, suggestions, or tips you would want to remember from these readings. You might want to consider all of your readings and resources as sources for one list, or make a shorter list for each reading or resource. Keep notes on where each item on your list came from.

The Note

A friend or colleague who is interested in what you have learned in this unit has asked you to write a note or email summing up what important lessons you might want to share. What would you include in this note? Remember to keep notes on where you learned what you are recommending.

Project Tips

Which facts, skills, tips, suggestions, or methods that you have read about seem most important to the projects, problems, and questions you will solve in this unit and in future units? Why? What might be most helpful on your final or midterm projects (if you have one)? Keep notes on where you read each project tip.

Additional Links:

  • So What? This page, from Mind Tools, goes over strategies you can use to look for the relevance of particular pieces of information. The focus is on the "So What?" strategy that was once very popular in the military.