Knowing how rather than just knowing is the whole point of employee training. The rapid evolution of processes and employment mobility these days call for continuous training, accessible without the constraints of place and time.
But despite the evolution of techniques and digitalization, which continually try to reinvent learning, training models seem to remain frozen. As products of the classroom, trainers still rely on a passive pedagogy, where the learner builds on theory and then finds himself lost when faced with practice. He doesn’t know how to put theory to action.
To overcome this problem of efficiency, the Learning by Doing method is becoming more and more common in modern training. Or learning through practice...
Learning by Doing: A classic practice
“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
We owe this quote to Aristotle, famous thinker of pedagogy if ever there was one. A wise philosopher who, in more ancient times, advocated what would later become, in more modern terms, Learning by Doing. It is indeed one thing to receive information by listening, and yet another to put it into practice in real life. Learning by doing is a simple concept, emphasizing the need to apply experience and actions, rather than relying on pure theory.
This idea came to fruition both in the industrial age, in the automotive and aviation sectors, and in new educational methods at the start of the 20th century, as seen for example in the Montessori methodology. For Maria Montessori, abstract concepts are not absorbed: “what the hand does, the mind remembers”. A child must integrate new concepts in a tangible and real way, by touching, weighing, experiencing what he is taught. But it was not until the 1980s that Learning by Doing was implemented in business strategies, encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation, in particular by economists such as Kenneth Arrow and Robert Lucas.
In even more recent history, Lean Management has gained traction in organizations of all sizes, drawing on the daily practice of all employees to optimize resource-intensive processes and aim for optimal performance.
Learning by Doing: Why does it work?
When listening, the human brain can only maintain the optimal level of attention for up to 10 minutes. Beyond that, attention plummets, even if the subject is interesting. Reading, listening… they’re no match for doing.
Practice, rather than theory, invokes two key factors:
- Risk: Doing means taking a risk. The risk of making a mistake, of course, but also the risk of failure and of confronting one’s intellectual limits, often under the supervision of an expert whose role is to correct the practice. Though to err may be human, the human brain does not like to fail. Put in a situation of failure, we are better able to remember our error and correct it after the fact.
- Emotion: In trying and doing, we experience an emotion which we associate with the action. Embarrassment, joy, stress, surprise… these emotions are effective markers of the creation of a memory associated with the practice.
The numbers speak for themselves: we remember 75% of what we do, and just 5% of what we listen to. Thus how Learning by Doing allows the individual to really integrate their learning.
First and foremost, through repetition. There is no secret, no miracle: to memorize, you have to repeat. As with memorizing childhood poems or repeating theater lines until you know them by heart, the same goes for technical learning, with an additional bonus: repeating it multiple times in different ways and in different scenarios is even better! A practical exercise enables you to change your approach and review the concepts actively, trying to solve problems or respond to case studies.
But Learning by Doing is also effective thanks to the mimicry that this method requires. It's scientifically proven: when we listen to a lesson or speech knowing that we are going to have to repeat the action right after, the brain prepares itself accordingly. Neuroscience has shown that the idea of immediate practice activates the same areas of the brain as if you were already practicing a skill. The result: increased and optimal attention.
Learning by Doing applied to digital
Digital online training is widely acclaimed today by professionals in a wide range of companies. What are they looking to achieve through these trainings? The acquisition of new skills directly applicable in their daily tasks, in dynamic formats, and at low cost.
If we take the example of software adoption, the theory will not be of much help in learning processes. Active practice enables us to adopt the right habits within the context of change management.
Learning by Doing in action with MOOCs
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) make it possible to set up a whole range of educational devices and activities that encourage experimentation and practice. Far from the stereotype of passive courses scribbling notes in front of a screen, MOOCs today offer:
- Skill-based learning, guided by expertise objectives to be achieved with practical application.
- Tool-based learning, leveraging case studies and role play, to encourage the collective involvement of participants.
- Problem-based learning, focused on redoing exercises, quizzes or other activities several times to facilitate problem-solving. Because it is by making a mistake that we best retain the information.
Examples of Learning by Doing
Learning by Doing has many applications. To inspire you, here are a few:
- Augmented reality, as seen at GRDF, where trainees learn to weld a faucet under pressure thanks to connected glasses, learning the right sequence of actions, where the contribution of the virtual is well anchored in the real.
- Application in concrete discussions, as for learning a foreign language: students are asked to present, in the foreign language, subjects of their choice, and discuss them with their classmates.
- Effective applications, particularly in serious games, which ask the employee to face a concrete problem-solving situation. This method is particularly effective for management or time management training.
The Lemon Learning method
Company training focuses mainly on digital support and good command of internal software tools. At Lemon Learning, we leverage interactive guides, directly integrated into the tools with which employees already work. Content is added to existing business software, to guide employees step by step towards good digital practices.
The Learning by Doing method is thus directly injected into users’ daily habits, who can activate the specific guide necessary for solving a problem or question in the moment. More autonomous and more efficient, your employees thus become the engine of change management in your company.
In the all-digital era, the approach of Learning by Doing is more practical than ever. By integrating training into the daily tasks of your employees, you optimize their performance, their autonomy, and their capacity for adoption of critical processes and tools.