Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Way We Learn vs. The Way We Teach

Many people get really frustrated when others “don’t get it.”

“I TOLD him (or her), already, but he (or she) just doesn’t listen!”

While there are some people that aren’t born with much common sense and would fail to understand fire if it burned them, most people prefer to “get it.”  Amazingly, many don’t.

I know this, because I’ve been this person many more times than I care to relive in my mind.

I think I know the main reason why many people don’t “get it.”

If Person A (Teacher) tries to teach Person B (Student) something, there is only two (2) possibilities:

Possibility #1: Person B was not ready (for whatever reason)

Possibility #2: Person A did not explain things in a way that made sense to Person B.

Most of the time, we assume Person B just wasn’t up to the task…at the moment or possibly ever.

Sometimes, that’s true, but over the years, I’ve learned that many people trying to teach might know something better than they’re explaining it.

So what is one of the biggest mistakes people make when teaching?

We learn differently than we teach.

Many people teach from a perspective of “just follow my lead.”

This teacher will walk the person step-by-step through whatever process the student needs to learn.  At first, this seems to make perfect sense.

First, do this.
Next, do this other thing.

Why wouldn’t we walk the student through every step?

This is perfect…IF we need the student to do this ONE TIME.

However, if we want the student to REPEAT these steps in the future, we’re leaving a lot to chance…and not a very good chance at that.


The teacher told the student what he (or she) knew, but that’s probably NOT the way they learned that same skill or process.

How did that teaching (likely) learn?

Probably through a lot of repetition.  Maybe he (or she) learned through self-discovery, but for that to happen, the person probably “played with things” until it really made sense.

Things begin to make sense to us when we get the concept.  Often, the detail follow, and we learn more of the details the more we work with the concept.

So most of us learn the concept first.  Then more details come later.

Then we do so many people try to teach by explaining the details first?

Next time you try to teach something and the student does not seem to be “getting it,” you might want to ask yourself whether you’ve made sure the student understands the concept first.

Expertise comes from knowing the details, but that’s not a good starting point.

Beginners need the concept…first.

That’s the way we learned.  Why teach (or explain) any other way?

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