Learn by Doing
Recently I had the pleasure of co-teaching a workshop at Pepperdine University for doctoral students working on their dissertations. My portion of the training involved demonstrating a software program that is used for analyzing qualitative data. (A little geeky, right?)
In thinking about how to engage the participants with the software, I took my inspiration from an author who suggested that the best way to become skilled at data analysis is to “learn by doing it.” What a great reminder! As adults, so little of what we learn happens through formal educational activities, like a lecture or a webinar. And data shows that when we adults do attend these kinds of formal education events, we tend to retain about 5-30% of the material.
So, how are we learning? Much of adult learning and workplace learning occurs through informal mechanisms. Think of all the things you know how to do that you didn’t learn in a classroom. Maybe you read about it in a book and tried it on your own. Or a mentor talked you through it and assisted you the first time. When we practice by doing, we are likely to retain more like 75% of what we learned.
That’s one of the things I love about coaching. Among other benefits, coaching is a space for learning that doesn’t involve lecture or instruction. The coach creates an environment of self-discovery and self-directed learning, where the client sets the learning goals and selects how the learning will occur. Coaching clients can learn by practicing with their coach or by co-creating a step-by-step process for how they will acquire or improve a skill. For example, many of us have jobs that require us to have difficult conversations, perhaps with a subordinate or an important client. Having difficult conversations is a skill that can be learned, and coaching is a great environment for developing these sorts of “soft” skills.
Have you recently learned something new by doing it? If so, share your experience in the comments field.