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Learning by Doing

June 29, 2011

We all know instinctively that the best way to learn a new skill is by practicing it. The trick is to find a Swimmersafe way to practice which has no physical, monetary, or reputational risk, associated with it. Pilots use flight simulators, in driving lessons we use dual-control cars and we learn to swim with floats.

Why then do we fail to allow people the chance to practice in the work environment? Perhaps it’s because practice takes time and effort. Perhaps it’s because it’s too hard. Perhaps this is true, however the alternative is doing something for real with no prior practice and this carries risks.

I’ve always been very interested in how we learn new skills; how we put into practice those things that we learn. Everyone is familiar with the scenario of going to a great training course, coming away all fired up and full of plans for what we’ll implement, then putting the folder up in the shelf and forgetting about it. We need to give our learners more support in making this transition from theory into practice into ‘business as usual’.

And this doesn’t have to be hard. All you need do is:

  • Design activities to help people implement what they’ve learnt
  • Encourage them to reflect on their performance and strive to improve it
  • Give them a means of seeking further help and support to do so

In practice these can take the form of Word or PDF documents and a course tutor who can be emailed or telephoned. The effort of the initial training intervention is entirely wasted if none of it is put into practice.

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