Taking a Scientific Approach to Learning New Skills: A Reflection Post Image

Taking a Scientific Approach to Learning New Skills: A Reflection Post

As the title of this post suggests, I have come to a point of reflection. For the past year, I have been learning Python, HTML, and Java. These three computer programming languages all have differences and similarities and I have come to find that learning one of them enhances the “learnability” of the others. However, I won’t be talking about the specific languages at length here. Instead, I would like to discuss my experience with learning them through experiential learning.

Experiential Learning

For those not familiar, experiential learning “occurs when carefully chosen experiences are supported by reflection, critical analysis and synthesis” (Association for Experiential Education). I would like to add that experiential learning also includes some form of passive learning as well.

To illustrate, passive learning, for the most part, involves a subject who learns through reading, watching, and/or listening. Experiential learning goes a step further to include more participation from the subject. For example, the subject might ask questions, draw diagrams, or even physically act out what they have learned.

I have taken a scientific approach to this type of learning.

Scientific Method

The scientific method is “a process for experimentation that is used to explore observations and answer questions” (Science Buddies). Although I do not claim that I followed the method in its’ entirety, I do experiment with various hypotheses (Figure 1).

Scientific Method Diagram

Figure 1. The Scientific Method. From ScienceBuddies.org.

The current working hypothesis I use is the following: “If a skill is improved upon every day, the skill will become better over time.” Before we continue, there are a few words in this statement I’d like to clarify. First, “skill” can be seen as an ability that one knows how to do and can demonstrate it. Second, “every day” should be taken literally. Third, “better” is a benchmark set by answering yes to any of the three following questions:

  1. Are you more knowledgeable about the skill now than before you worked on it?
  2. Have you learned something new about that skill?
  3. Have you solidified your understanding about what you have previously learned?

Also, it is important to note that I take the following line of reasoning as a way to answer the above questions:

  • All of the above questions can be answered by quantity.

For example, reading can be viewed as how many pages one has read, typing as how many lines one has typed, how many times a learned skill has been included in your real work. This is an easy way to compare your results to your hypothesis.

Problems

Notice in the above section I did not give an example for quantifying reflection. It can be quantified by combining any of the above examples. However, if we only measure reflection based on quantitive data, we miss out on all of the qualitative data.

Now I won’t discuss the problems qualitative data poses here, but I will end with a question and my answer to that question:

Why does learning this way even matter? 

All of this matters because I believe that one of the best ways to learn a skill is to test what works best for you. Keep what works and discard what doesn’t.

Conclusion

In my experience, using the scientific method has helped me learn Python, HTML, and Java. My goal for this post was to share some insight of how I used the scientific method to learn them.

Everything I have discussed can be used as a guideline for trying new ways of learning. Instead of relying on one way of learning, embrace the many ways we have available to us today. By using the scientific method, one can test which learning methods work best for them.


Works Referenced

Association for Experiential Education. “What is Experiential Education?” Association for Experiential Education. Web. 21 Jan. 2017. http://www.aee.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=110:what-is-ee&catid=20:other&Itemid=260

Science Buddies. “What is the Scientific Method?” Steps of the Scientific Method. Web. 21 Jan. 2017. http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_scientific_method.shtml


What are your thoughts on the post? Do you think that by using the Scientific Method as a way to test learning methods that one could better understand material that they are learning? Post you questions and/or comments below and I will be sure to reply.

~ Johnathon Kwisses

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Johnathon Kwisses

Johnathon Kwisses is a music technologist and a Python & Java programmer. He earned a B.A. in Music with Native Studies Minor from the University of Alberta.

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