Looking back at my life, I can identify many moments that helped to define who I have become as a person. Similarly, I can inspect many of these moments or experiences and see that they have also helped to determine who I became as a learner.
From a very young age I was exposed to life on the farm. My mother, stepfather, brother, and I all had responsibilities we were entrusted with to keep the homestead going. I remember learning to wash, dry, fold, and put away laundry at the age of 7. I also learned how to dust, vacuum, and sweep and mop during this time. As with most young children, I learned how to complete tasks and chores by watching my mother demonstrate while she explained the steps to me carefully. Before too long, with lots of practice, I would almost be a pr0 at the assigned chore. In addition to learning household chores such as cleaning and cooking, I was taught how to tend a very large garden with a wide variety of vegetables and how to tend to our chickens, turkeys, and cattle. In retrospect, if my parents had given me step by step instructions about how to accomplish these tasks without providing some visual demonstration, I am certain I would have failed miserably over and over again.
The second extremely impactful moment in my learning life would be from the day I was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes on. It was April Fool’s Day 1986 and I was 7 years old about to turn 8. I was terrified of needles and had never been hospitalized before that day. I spent a few months in the hospital learning how to properly check my blood sugar, draw up and deliver insulin injections, and treat high and low blood sugars. I was made to participate in classes during this lengthy hospital stay and can honestly say that I did learn quite a bit but again, I feel that much of what I learned was from demonstration.
When I was 19 I got a job as an optician although I had no training or knowledge about eyeglasses or cutting lenses at the time. I’m sure you’re probably thinking, “I can see where this is going” and you’re probably right. After reading manual after manual about how to cut lenses to fit frames and how to repair frames, I had absorbed little to no new knowledge on the topic. However, after a few short weeks of training in the lab and learning hands on, I was on my way to becoming a competent optician.
(So you can see a pattern developing here and I’m sure you can see which style of teaching I will most likely favor in my own classroom someday, right?)
There are so many other experiences throughout my life that I can think of that show and support the case for my ability to learn best by demonstration. I always struggled with mathematics and algebra throughout school but until I had an instructor who actually sat down and showed me step by step what needed to be done in order to solve a typical algebraic problem, I simply could not grasp it. Likewise, if I want to cook or bake a new recipe, especially something particularly difficult, I am much more successful if I first watch a video showing how to make that specific dish.
The last experience that stands out in my mind was when my very gracious boyfriend taught me how to change the oil on my vehicle. Although I’d read about how to do so online and had people tell me how to do so, I never actually learned the complete process until he showed me step by step.
Although I do believe there is always knowledge that can be taken away from lecture I feel very strongly in favor of learning hands on just as supported by my own learning life.
Photo cc by Bryan Rosengrant