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#55982 - 09/11/05 06:43 PM Can troubleshooting be taught?  
e57  Offline
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 2,876
I recently had a conversation with a PM from another company.... Topic of troubleshooting came up, and mentioned that it was a skill I was "taught". (Along with schematic reading and general operation of 3 phase motor controls. Not only was I taught this skill, I was tested extensively on it, with lots of pratical application.)

Anyway, the reply from this PM was "troubleshooting can NOT be taught, you either have or you don't."

What do all of you think, and anyone have any decent methods of teaching it?

Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason

Work Gear for Electricians and the Trades

#55983 - 09/11/05 07:14 PM Re: Can troubleshooting be taught?  
resqcapt19  Offline
Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 2,148
Anyway, the reply from this PM was "troubleshooting can NOT be taught, you either have or you don't."

You can teach the theory and techniques, but being able to do it effectively cannot be taught.


#55984 - 09/11/05 07:20 PM Re: Can troubleshooting be taught?  
HotLine1  Offline

Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 6,812
Brick, NJ USA
Yes, anything can be 'taught' if the person has an interest. IMHO, the best method is "hands-on" along with class time.

I had a few "youngsters" over the years that worked with/for me, and those that had an interest to learn, did well. Back then we worked at a printing plant, and there was a varied amount of TS from VFD's to old DC equipment. Experience is a great instructor.

Reading from books, and doing class work is a valuable instructional tool, but having actual 'hands-on' makes it even better. Actually 'seeing' a piece of equipment, after looking at the schematic, presents a "real life" experience.



#55985 - 09/11/05 07:57 PM Re: Can troubleshooting be taught?  
hbiss  Offline
Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 886
Hawthorne, NY USA
Of course it can be taught and always has been. The person needs to have a thorough understanding of what they are working with as well as develop a logical procedure to isolate a problem. A person doesn't necessarily have to have a formal education in these skills, they can be gained through experience and intelligence.

I think anybody who says "troubleshooting cannot be taught, you either have it or you don't" probably has been working with the brain dead. There are those that, no matter how hard you try to get them to understand, just don't have the intelligence to go beyond the grunt work.


#55986 - 09/11/05 09:58 PM Re: Can troubleshooting be taught?  
Electric Eagle  Offline
Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 914
Alpharetta, GA
I'm beginning to also think that troubleshooting can't be taught. At least not to everyone. There is an instinctive property to troubleshooting that one either has or they don't. I'm not talking about using a repair manual and performing tests based on a flow chart, I'm talking about troubleshooting a circuit or building where no manual exists. It's usually something simple, but I've seen guys spend 4 hours and tear up half the building only for me to walk in an solve the problem in 5 minutes. And some of these guys are excellent electricians, they just can't solve problems, they look "too hard".

#55987 - 09/11/05 10:16 PM Re: Can troubleshooting be taught?  
gfretwell  Offline

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,069
I was in the computer fixin' end of the business (back when they broke) I think you can teach trouble shooting tricks and procedures. You can even come up with an engineered "MAP".
What you can't teach is that gut feel that "this ain't the problem, we gotta go another way".
Some folks just have a second sense about what kind of problem they are working on and which way to start based on what works and what doesn't work.

Greg Fretwell

#55988 - 09/11/05 11:03 PM Re: Can troubleshooting be taught?  
JCooper  Offline
Joined: Dec 2002
Posts: 228
Kendall Park, NJ USA
In the company I work for we have three service techs, one who has been doing service for over 20 years, one who was an installer for a few years and one who was an installer, not a very good one, and due to injury was placed in service. The first two guys are great at their job and I think a lot of their skills come from years in the field but mostly from being able to think logically. The third guy no matter how many time you explain something to him just doesn't seem to sink in. Part of troubleshooting is being able to apply past experience, if applicable, and if it something new being able to take it logically piece by piece to break down the problem into manageable chunks. If you took somebody who is mechanically inclined, who grew up in a shop and is a hands-on kind of person they typically are very logical thinkers, whereas if you took somebody who is interested in the arts they are more creative thinkers who can't follow logic as easily. A good troubleshooter, in my opinion, has a balanced mindset with the logic to break down the problem and the creativity to come up with a solution.

#55989 - 09/11/05 11:25 PM Re: Can troubleshooting be taught?  
e57  Offline
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 2,876
This is interesting.... Mentions of flow-charts or maps.... Exactly how I was taught, but with schematics. I had to either "memorize, or be able to verbalize" from start to load contact, the entire electro-mechanical, and solid-state AC and DC operation on a schematic of a 60kw genorator to pass my class in the military. It was impossible to memorize, and was easier to just know the symbols and what they did. They would also have the class pass a prac-ap by "bugging" a generator. After that, you got handed a random piece of equipment, and you could do the same thing. Even if handed just a piece of equipment, you would just make a schematic of it, if you didn't have one. Personaly, I think being able to visualze the circuit, and the problem is key. And being able to visualize an unknown circuit can be easily done, and easily taught. If the person has at least basic therory, and schematic reading skills, the concept of troubleshooting is not far off for them.

The way I see it, if someone is capable of building a circuit of (X) complexity. They should be able to troubleshoot at (X) complexity. Unless dealing with a whole building system of controls, most power, and lighting circuits are not that complex.

I should now admit I have not taught anyone the skill. Maybe time I should....

Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason

#55990 - 09/11/05 11:36 PM Re: Can troubleshooting be taught?  
e57  Offline
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 2,876
One more anology... If you can learn how to play the game of chess, even at basic level, you can learn to troubleshoot.

Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason

#55991 - 09/11/05 11:59 PM Re: Can troubleshooting be taught?  
BigJohn  Offline
Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 391
Boston, MA
I've found for me, it depends what I'm trouble-shooting. When I go into a system I've never worked in before (and I have the leasure to do this) I like to sit and break it down in my mind until I understand the complete operation; not just the part that is failing that I have to fix. That way when I go back in the future, it takes no time at all to diagnose a problem, because I'm already familiar with it. But this is all electromechanical; even with the schematics, it's pretty linear.

I have tried and tried to learn solid-state trouble-shooting, but I can't visualize the operation of the circuit in even the simplest of applications. And maybe that's a key hangup, what I'm trying to do is see the operation in my mind, in this case, no moving parts I'm actually thinking about current flow.

Maybe I need to find someone experienced who can actually teach it, but I think that some of these skills also depend a lot on the way the learner approaches the problem. Solid-state seems like more of an abstraction, and is accordingly much harder fo rme to grasp (surprise, surprise, I don't intuit algebra, either).

But I definitely think there are definitely different types of trouble-shooting, and depending on the person, some can be more easily taught than others.

My $0.02


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