Learning By Doing: The Best Way To Learn!

By Balachander Ramachandran on December 22, 2014

Aristotle once said “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

This quote captures an important aspect of learning which was evident from all of my courses. Implementing the concepts I learned in class helped me get a better understanding; my learning felt complete.

In my machine learning course, I got to implement several standard learning algorithms. By implementing these algorithms, I got a sense of how they are applied in the real world. In one of the assignments, we were even tasked with running experiments and making observations, making us feel like real machine learning scientists!

One can get as much knowledge by reading and watching videos, but only by trying to write, implement or build it in practice can one achieve true understanding.

The difficulties you face are real. One is exposed to the assumptions made in theory and the adjustments needed to make it work. Mere reading cannot fully capture this. Learning by experience is one of the most powerful teaching and learning tools available.

It is not sufficient to simply learn new concepts without carrying them out. Likewise, it is not sufficient to simply have the practical experience. One must also reflect upon it to fully absorb and remember it. Otherwise it will just be forgotten over time.

David A. Kolb, an American educational theorist, popularized this concept of learning through experience. He proposed a model with four stages and they form the experiential learning cycle.

Source : www2.le.ac.uk

Kolb’s cycle starts with doing something. In order to learn, one must actually do. This is followed by the second stage of the cycle which entails reviewing what has been done. The third stage deals with making sense of what has been done and also interpreting the events. This leads to an understanding of the relationship between concept and practice. In the final stage of the learning cycle, what one has learned is put into practice.

Thus, by doing and finding a correlation between theory and practice, we can learn effectively.

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