The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Teaching and learning

The ways we learn and teach something are often screwed.

Sure, there is learning happening and most frequently, when participants finish the seminar they are happy with the experience. It’s a great moment for teachers as participants show their gratefulness and gleam feeling to have learned a lot.

The next day some of the learning disappeared. The next week, even more, dimmed away. A year later there is only little knowledge left. Looking back, the verdict often is a lack of practice. An idea made even easier by the 10.000-hour myth.

While it is true, that practice is necessary, it is also important to know what to practice and what elements contribute to the learning.

Take for example golf, it’s a sport you play using one basic move. That basic move requires these skills: find balance and rhythm for your swing, take a stance, hold the grip. You can practice them over and over, but you’ve got to choose if you practice them on the driving range or on the course. On the course you can join a competition, move along on your own or meet others to play together. All these situations teach something different. Even better, if some are there just for the fun.

To learn these skills a few hours of dedicated practice are sufficient. Yes, naturally you can get better at them by practicing more. What 20 hours of practice can give you though is an understanding of what the basic skills are, the ability to know when you are making a mistake and a pretty good swing.

Deconstructing the teaching we seek to make into basic skills and practicing these deliberately for a specific amount to time is something I rarely see. The more frequent approach is to establish a list of things the participants need to know and teaching them one after the other. The hope being, that this will also allow learning the skills.

It’s when you aim for performance or pleasure, that you’ll be adding more hours of practice and go beyond the basic skills. Josh Waitzkin, for example, would deconstruct one move and practice it so often, that it would become a move his subconscious would master as easily as walking.

A challenge to learn a skill using such an approach might lie in the responsibility people have to own to be able to learn.



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