Monday, 11 February 2013

Learning by Watching, and Doing


There are many different ways in which learning can occur, with some appearing to offer unique advantages over others.

Hands on experience has the appeal of engaging the subject extensively, however the flipside of this is a greater cognitive load that can inhibit the ability to 'take a step back' from the task and gain a greater overview. For more on this see the work of Bandura, 1977.

Recent research by Hoover, Giambatistaand and Belkin (2012) compares direct experience and vicarious learning approaches to learning and concludes that an integrated approach is best, with vicarious learning preceding direct experience.



Of course there may be some tasks where one style is preferable over another; they suggest trainee surgeons would do well to watch and learn that way first before experimenting on real people. But equally, vicarious learning alone can have its limitations if the participant is not getting a full range of, for example, tactile experience.

A fusion of the two is likely to make sense in many instances, and the use of simulation can lead to a blending of the two types of learning. Think of a Matrix-like construct that offers an interactive quality that a participant can both make sense of and contribute to in a way that builds skill.

In such an environment, either technologically simulated or imagined, there would seem to be room for a continuum between observation and participation that could be adjusted, rather like a difficulty level on a computer game, as is suitable to a given user's current skill level. Perhaps some of the more difficult processes would be automated in the 'easy' version- an ideal ratio between immersion and cognitive demand thereby being reached.

In the mean time (whilst we are busy programming our constructs) a simple take-away from this is to both overview a task being completed by others and directly engage in it for better performance.

Read Hoover, Giambatista and Belkin's (2012) full study here.

4 comments:

  1. I think the idea of virtual training via construct would be awesome. While such a technologically simulated construct is not yet feasible, I am intrigued by your suggestion of an imagined construct. It would seem that, with proper guidance and monitoring, such a system could be almost as effective as a truly virtual simulation, provided the individual is honest about his or her experience. I suppose this case is the logical extreme of the classic "visualizing something before you do it." I feel like if I put this into practice, it could actually make a difference.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree that a Matrix-like construct would be really cool but I think it could never be as efficient as real life training. For example in Matrix, they are improving their martial arts skills thanks to the device and we can suppose that they can work on their muscle memory and feel pain. However, the consequences of any mistake are minimized, which also minimizes the emotional response and, therefore, the urge of correcting this mistake. Of course, this kind of simulation would be useful for acquiring new skills but I strongly believe that learning will always need to be finalised with real life training.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good points. Yes, it strikes me that to the degree that there is a difference between the training construct and the real life scenario, that is the degree to which the learning will need to be added to by in the field experience. Of course with the right imaginative or technological approaches this gap may be relatively small; particularly in certain types of training. However even with bigger gaps, any bridging may be beneficial due to either the risk or costliness of hands on practice.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good points. Yes, it strikes me that to the degree that there is a difference between the training construct and the real life scenario, that is the degree to which the learning will need to be added to by in the field experience. Of course with the right imaginative or technological approaches this gap may be relatively small; particularly in certain types of training. However even with bigger gaps, any bridging may be beneficial due to either the risk or costliness of hands on practice.

    ReplyDelete