Learning-by-doing: A key methodology for skills development


Companies now have as a priority the skills development of their employees. In the last ten years, organizations have faced more changes than ever, driven by digitalization, the evolution of technologies, and customer needs. Today, many companies are making significant investments in training and talent development, but according to McKinsey, few of these initiatives result in behavioral change in the workplace. 

When it comes to acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to deal with the changes demanded by this era, as well as the speed with which they occur, the success of any training program depends on the combination, in the right amount, of both understanding the contents and putting them into practice. While human beings acquire knowledge and skills through theoretical learning, they consolidate, remember, and know how to apply them better by doing.

In this context, learning-by-doing or experiential learning is the most effective methodology for acquiring skills since it promotes practice to help students learn from successes and mistakes. Thus, this methodology opens the way to the acquisition of crucial competencies for business development, such as teamwork, problem-solving, and leadership. 

Learning-by-doing or effective learning through practice

Although many companies haven’t explored the experiential learning path, it’s not a new methodology. Albert Einstein expressed it in his famous quote: “Learning is experience. Everything else is information”.

At the beginning of the 20th century, various theorists such as John Dewey, Jean Piaget, and Kurt Lewin considered that education should be active. Their theories, based on the idea that learning “occurs best when it’s the result of meaningful experiences,” were later put into practice by David Kolb, a professor at Harvard University. He believed that “learning-by-doing” provided better results by allowing students to apply concepts and theories to real situations. With this in mind, he implemented activities such as games, simulations, or roleplays in his classes, obtaining better results in attention and retention. This way, he developed experiential learning theory, or what we know today as learning-by-doing.

Learning-by-doing is a methodology based on experimentation. It consists of acquiring skills that allow individuals to solve real-life situations or problems. But to learn through experiences, these must be interesting for the students: this is especially relevant in an era where time is not the only barrier to learning but also the attention span. 

Learning-by-doing uses the practice as its primary tool, which appeals to two essential factors: emotions, such as stress, surprise, or joy, which are triggered when we try to act; and risk since if we’re in a situation where we can fail, humans are capable of remembering and correcting mistakes.

The learning pyramid

Data confirms it: we only remember 5% of what we hear, compared to 75% of what we do. Practice and repetition are two vital elements of this methodology. If we think of basic examples, such as learning to walk or ride a bicycle, it’s evident that no one knows these things through theory but instead through practice. 

Practice allows students to actively review concepts, choose or change approaches and solve problems in real situations when it comes to more complex skills, such as efficient communication or leadership.

But besides practice, another aspect that makes learning-by-doing practical is mimicry. When we attend a lesson and know that we will have to repeat the action or answer questions, the brain prepares itself accordingly. The idea of immediate practice sets in motion the same brain processes as the practice itself, resulting in increased attention.

How to make learning a meaningful experience

A study by McKinsey & Company found that hands-on learning is more valued by employees than theoretical learning because it allows them to develop skills and solve problems effectively in their roles. Traditional training is becoming obsolete in preparing people for the future, a future that presents itself as dynamic and confusing. We must pay special attention to how we train our employees, adopting techniques that encourage self-initiative and helping them awaken their capabilities through activities that add value to the company’s objectives or projects.

Simulating certain real situations and other interactive elements are excellent opportunities for employees to develop skills especially valued in the current context, such as creativity, strategic and critical thinking, decision-making, and self-evaluation.

Experiential learning or learning-by-doing makes learning meaningful: it involves people and generates a connection between what they learn and what they feel. It also strengthens employees’ capacity for action, increasing their project involvement and participation. In addition, positive networking among colleagues occurs through learning experiences, which help strengthen bonds and develop social skills.

How to implement learning-by-doing methodology in your organization

Thanks to e-learning, it’s now easier to adopt this methodology. Above all, it allows the inclusion of practical and interactive elements in very dynamic formats, which help to reinforce what has been learned. However, practical learning does not exclude theory. Combining both models to accelerate the learning process and transfer to the workplace is best.

Specifically, at isEazy Skills, we rely on this methodology as the main formula for talent development. In other words, an immersive experience in which employees face real situations and practical examples to develop power skills. Do you want to offer a unique learning experience? Try it for free.

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