04 January 2011

Get ’Em Doing

Classes are starting soon.

For those of you still in high school, yes, I know they started yesterday. My apologies and condolences.

I'm in university mode. Most people, I suppose, are wondering what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about teaching and learning...again. There are infinite reminders of how important it is to teach effectively, and every time I think about how the Army teaches, I get slightly disappointed.

The Army teaches really important stuff. And it is uber-important, at least in the near term, for Soldiers to learn those lessons really well. Another post may speculate on the long term consequences of poor training.

For now, let's think about how to teach properly. Or at least better than the folks at TRADOC realize can be done. If one thing can be the difference maker for students, it is the notion of active learning.

I watch my two year-old mess around with the dental floss dispenser, or fold and tear a plastic bag, or stack blocks in a container, and I am amazed at how much fun he is having-- and how rapidly he is learning.

Doing is the best way to learn.

There are a number of reasons for this:

First, active learning is more engaging. When learners do stuff, they are more interested and invested in it than they would be looking at slides or reading a book.

Second, it is more memorable. Your mind will retain information better if you practice it with motor skills and by using different parts of your brain.

Third, it is customized to the student. When a learner does something, he makes choices along the way about how to process, repeat, or practice it. The task becomes his.

Finally, it is a great time saver, because the student actually prepares for real work, and gains confidence in his skills.

In short, active learning rocks. If you are an Army trainer, get your Soldier doing.

It is a blast to watch my son learn actively about his world. I can only hope that my upcoming classes are a fraction as interesting.

(Note on photo: not my son.)

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