Learning by Doing: Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice

In the often-daunting world of education and personal development, there exists a transformative approach to learning that transcends traditional methods: “Learning by Doing (LBD)”. This dynamic method emphasises hands-on experiences and active engagement, fostering deeper understanding, enhanced retention and profound inspiration. I first encountered the LBD approach in the early 2000s while studying World Class Manufacturing. It fell under the aptly named “People Development Pillar” and proved to be a truly dynamic approach that empowers employees to continually learn, adapt and innovate in response to evolving challenges and opportunities. It embodies the principle that practical experience and application are essential drivers of success and excellence in operations. Let’s delve into why this approach yields such positive benefits and explore its impact on learning styles, engagement and inspiration. One of the key strengths of LBD is its ability to accommodate diverse learning styles. From visual and auditory learners to kinaesthetic and tactile learners, this method provides a multi-sensory experience that caters to various preferences. Unlike passive learning approaches, such as lectures or readings, active learning encourages participants to immerse themselves in practical tasks, enabling them to grasp concepts more effectively. Age and experience agnostic, active learning ignites a spark of curiosity and passion within learners, driving them to explore, experiment and discover. By actively participating in tasks, individuals feel a sense of ownership over their learning journey, leading to increased motivation and engagement. Whether it’s through simulations, group projects, or hands-on activities, learners are actively involved in the process, making learning more enjoyable and meaningful. One of the greatest strengths of LBD is its ability to bridge the gap between theory and practice. By applying theoretical concepts in real-world scenarios, learners gain a deeper understanding of how ideas manifest in practical settings. This experiential learning approach not only enhances comprehension but also inspires creativity and innovation. Real-life examples and case studies serve as catalysts for inspiration, demonstrating the tangible impact of knowledge in action. I’ll get to some of these in a bit. While LBD offers many benefits, it’s essential to acknowledge potential challenges. One common concern is the time and resources required to implement hands-on activities effectively. Additionally, some learners may initially feel uncomfortable stepping out of their comfort zones or fear making mistakes or embarrassing themselves. These are real concerns, often routed in how we feel others perceive us. Despite these perceptions are often inaccurate, as a leader, it’s important to emphasise right at the start of any LBD experience, that this is a safe space, no judgement and no wrong answer. Set the scene correctly, and these challenges are often outweighed by the invaluable insights, skills and confidence gained through active learning experiences. A quick Google search and you’ll soon find numerous studies that support the effectiveness of LBD. According to a report by the National Training Laboratories, individuals retain 75% of information learned through hands-on activities compared to only 5% through lecture-style learning. That’s an incredible statistic, but not surprising. Just the word ‘lecture’ switches me off! It creates visions of being ‘spoken at’ and for want of a better word, ‘lectured’! Nope, not for me thanks! So, I promised some examples of LBD. My son loves coding, it unleashes his innovative mind to create some wonderful, yet complex in my mind, digital masterpieces. To learn this skill, he’s attended coding bootcamp. These are excellent as they offer hands-on programs that immerse learners in coding and software development. Rather than traditional classroom lectures, these bootcamps focus on practical coding exercises, projects and real-world challenges. He’s been learning by actively writing code, debugging errors and building applications, gaining practical skills that are directly applicable to the future career aspirations he has in technology. Medical schools and healthcare institutions utilise simulated training environments to provide hands-on experience to learners. Simulation labs offer realistic scenarios where learners can practice medical procedures, surgical techniques and patient care in a safe and controlled setting. This enables learners to enhance their clinical skills, decision-making abilities and confidence in handling real-life emergencies. To a lesser extent the LBD method is applied an all first aid courses I have attended over the years. We’ll all no doubt, recognise the torso dummy that comes out for some CPR. The most common example of an LBD approach comes in modern apprenticeship programs. These provide individuals with hands-on training and mentorship in various skilled trades and industries. Apprentices work alongside experienced professionals to gain practical experience, technical skills and industry-specific knowledge. These programs typically combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction, allowing apprentices to learn by actively performing tasks and receiving real-time feedback from mentors. What better way to learn! LBD is not a modern approach either, historic examples, such as the apprenticeship model in medieval Europe or the Montessori method developed by Maria Montessori, highlight the enduring success of active learning approaches throughout history. These examples illustrate how LBD is all around us, providing practical, experiential learning opportunities that empower learners to acquire new skills, deepen their understanding and prepare for success in their chosen fields. My conclusion, LBD transcends traditional education paradigms, offering a transformative approach that engages, inspires and empowers learners. By embracing diverse learning styles, igniting passion and curiosity and bridging theory with practice, this method fosters deeper understanding and long-lasting skills. Fancy a taste of LBD? Get ready because I’ve got some exciting news! I’m absolutely buzzing to announce the “Ever-So-Lean, Lean Thinking 5S Workshop” happening on March 19th, 2024, at the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce HQ in Ashford, Kent. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill workshop; it’s a hands-on, interactive journey into the world of Continuous Improvement. We’re talking about rolling up your sleeves, getting stuck in and experiencing first-hand what it means to apply 5S. At this workshop, you’ll have the chance to dive into Lean Thinking through interactive sessions, practical exercises and plenty of networking opportunities. It’s not just about learning; it’s about doing. So, whether you’re a seasoned pro or just dipping your toes into the world of Continuous Improvement,