Learning by Doing (directors cut)


Arguably the most natural and powerful form of learning is through experience, or more precisely through reflection on doing. Also called experiential learning, it’s what prima ballerinas do after their performance at the national opera. But it also happens to boys that are sad because their father got angry when they played football in the living room. By the age of one, we all had our own painful encounter with experiential learning when we tried to walk, failed, fell and cried like, well a baby… And even though this was an unpleasant and discouraging exercise that lasted for months in the end we all made it. How is that possible? As soon as we fell and the first shock was over, our brain unconsciously began to make sense out of all of the information available to identify how this embarrassment occurred. It remembers that when we pushed ourselves up, everything was fine: our feet on the floor, our arms in position and our head and shoulders up right. Ready to go! When our upper leg muscles pulled our left foot 12.3% to the front at an angle of 23 degree, our arms didn’t compliment the movement and the ventricles in the inner ear, responsible for static balance, got confused for a second. When at the same moment the cat ran by, our eyes sent an alarming signal to the hippocampus and we completely lost it… Outch! Unconsciously this is how our brain analyses the relationship of events within our body or in the environment. It happens all the time as we learn to walk, talk, kiss, function in a fancy office or dance the salsa. Once we understand the connections between what went wrong, we know what we need to change when we try the next time. Experiential Learning can also be used explicitly to learn a new skill or to become better at what we already love doing. Here is how it works: First get yourself into a situation to experience. After, reflect on what happened. Then try to understand the relationships to form an abstract concept – if I do A, I get B. Last, decide what to do differently next time. Then do it again. For example if you want to learn how to ride a bicycle, the following might happen: You get onto the bike and start kicking the pedals. As you are afraid of speed, you ride too slowly and you fall to the side. Afterward you remember that you fell at the exact moment when your speed was the slowest Then you form the abstract and slightly dangerous idea: speed equals stability Next time, you decide, you’ll speed up Lets try that again: This time you ride fast. In fact, so fast that you crash straight into the next fruit stall. Your head hurts and you realize that speeding like that is really dangerous. You create the next abstract thought: speed is danger and danger needs protection You then decide to wear a helmet next time Experiential learning is also believed to be responsible for the fact that musicians generally fare better at most tests, regardless of what they measure. People that practice an instrument not only engage their brain in motor, visual and auditory areas, but they also learn by reflecting on what they’re doing with a fast feedback loop – a wrong tone on the violin sounds too terrible to remain unnoticed. While playing they therefore not only learn to make music, but also that progress in general comes through practice, reflection, understanding, and repetition. You can use it with your friends or colleagues when working on a project. Silicon Valley start-ups do it when they tell their developers to get out of the building! After the interaction with real potential customers, the team gets together, analyses the feedback and decides what to do next. If you are all by yourself learning something where feedback doesn’t come fast and painfully, get going and look for someone who can give you a second opinion along the way for students that can be a friend or the teacher, for entrepreneurs that’s the mentor and for journalists a blog where readers can comment. Tell us, what do you think? Is learning through reflecting on doing only good when acquiring new hands-on skills or is it also suitable to study science, math, the humanities or abstract art?

13 thoughts on “Learning by Doing (directors cut)”

  1. How lucky of the boy to jump to the right conclusions. But normal minds need to search in order to find something. Many false starts and bad idea are on the road the his unrealistic super genius.

    I concluded that walking was safer, when I first tried a bike. How can he just invent the bike helmet out of thin air. He got so much help form his environment that he didn't needed to think at all. if your point was that failing help you see a problem then you are right. But failing doesn't help you come up with new solutions.

    Consider how schools are failing all the time, but they fail to learn form their mistakes. They can't go buy a helmet from the corner shop. reinventing the wheel is a completely different task than borrowing the idea form our someone.

    Here are some examples of how you invent the wrong solution to a well known problem:

    "If students aren’t learning their basic subjects, it makes sense to concentrate more on the 3 R’s and cut back on activities that seem superfluous, such as play, art, and sports.

    It seems efficient to create a school environment in which students interact primarily with others of the same age.

    It makes sense to implement no-touch rules to avoid the problem of sexual harassment.

    It makes sense to implement practices designed by experts without consulting the students.

    It makes sense to standardize practices and limit the opportunity of teachers to implement their own strategies.

    It makes sense to use monetary payment as an incentive to improve grades.

    It makes sense to quantify school and student performance in the form of test scores."

  2. I really like your videos , I've watched most of them and I believe one can learn a lot from them . I truly appreciate your hard work and hope you'll never stop what you're doing. ^_^

  3. Thanks you so much for the videos. They changed my negative thoughts after spending 5 minutes each . Keep doing good work.. 🙂

  4. Your videos are very helpful, although I'm Russian, but it does not stop me from learning English thanks a lot.

  5. Yes.., I guess what most of us (or probably just me) did wrong is that we learn TOO much. We study, we over plan things, we think about what happens if we do this.. or do that.. and we NEVER actually do it. Afraid to give it a try because of over analyzing and thinking.. great illustration. I think we all need to try more, fail.. and learn from it like this video just said.

  6. Learning through reflecting and doing is good when acquiring not only new skills but also in all school subjects. I studied Philosophy and Pedagogy in AUTH and I remember this theory sooo well lol

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