Learning by Doing

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learn by doing


“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”― AristotleThe Nicomachean Ethics

We have this mindset in our culture that says first you LEARN, then you DO, and there is a separation between these two activities.


A starter learns by doing, Dale PartridgeThe model is that to become a lawyer, a teacher, a chef or an engineer, you are given instruction, learning what these professionals do, how and why they do it, and the general facts needed for expertise in this field. We pass from kindergarten through twelfth grade, from high school to college, from college to graduate and professional schools, ending our education at some predetermined stage to become the chef, or the engineer, hopefully equipped with an understanding of what being a chef, or an engineer, actually is and everything you need to actually, you know, do it.

Historically, this very reasonable sounding concept made sense because once people learned a skill or a trade they could expect to apply this learning towards doing something for the rest of their lives. But is this model going to work for us going forward?


Our cultural pattern for this can be clearly seen in the fact that we are expected to spend the first part of our lives LEARNING (school) and not DOING much of anything and the rest of our lives DOING and there isn't much call for continuing to learn. After all, you were supposed to learn all that you need to know in school, right?

You don't learn to walk by being taught the structure and way your legs work; you learn to walk by trying it and falling down a lot. You don't learn to talk by being instructed in how vocal cords work ( I still couldn't explain it) you learn by making a bunch of weird sounds until their not so weird, they start to become words.

I watch my kids and realize that they learn from anything and everything that they see, hear, touch. They learn wherever they are, not just in some special learning place. Yes, there is a need for some explanation in our lives, I watch my 6 year old jumping off the bed flapping his arms as hard as he can and crashing to the floor, then asking, why birds can fly by flapping their wings but he can't, so I explain the concept of air flowing over a curved surface, creating lift. Maybe he didn't quite get it this time, but it made a lot more sense to him because of his jumping and crashing than it would if I set him down at a desk and attempted to explain the concept of pressure differential causing lift.


Make Mistakes
You can try to teach someone how a Balance sheet works (how boring) or you can let them experience it in real life through a savings account or a lemonade stand and then bring on the education.

When the Student is ready, the teacher will appear.

Active Learning, Dale Carnegie

I was recently at a TedX conference and a man was talking about students engagement and enjoyment at school. 


If they started at 6, their enjoyment and engagement usually topped out somewhere between the ages of 10-12 and most students started to find school to be irrelevant to their lives. Maybe part of the answer is that we need to change the way we teach, but I will leave that to someone else to dig into. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they spent 6 years learning by doing followed by 6 years of very engaged learning by education. I wonder if many of them hit a kind of a wall and they really need some more time of learning by doing before they are ready to understand the concepts that they are being taught in school. Some of the people that I know who seemed to get the most out of their college experience where often those students were either heavily engaged in summertime projects or they took a year or more off from school in order to work in the real world or volunteer in places where they put into practice what they had learned and where ready for more.


Active Learning, John Dewey
Maybe in our education process instead of teaching them concepts and then letting them try it out we need to give them the opportunity to try it out, fall flat on their face and then teach them the concepts that they needed to master what they first attempted. Maybe instead of teaching kids about the rhythm and rhyming schemes of poetry we get them to write some really awful poetry and then we talk to them about what makes poetry so awesome to read and effecting at communicating. Maybe when trying to teach entrepreneurialism instead of teaching them about good business models, we need to get them to fail at a business and then show up to class.

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Where can you integrate learning with doing? For more information on ways to connect the two, visit my page Who & Why or send me an email at sethgetz@gmail.com.





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