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Some things can only be learned by doing them, but unfortunately we live in an age where this is undervalued. When we learn something by doing it, at the same time we’ll pick up or develop loads of skills and talents which are incidental to the primary task we are learning.

Increasingly things are expected to be ‘taught’ and ‘learned’ in classrooms. Universities and colleges are really good at teaching parts of a subject such as its history or theories relating to it, but less good at handling the practical aspects (there is another thread that remains to be explored, and that is academic disdain for anything that smacks of the practical).

As social and educational trends lead us away from skills-based learning, the implicit message is that learning-on-the-job is of little value. Apprenticeships are an obvious example of this, but there are many others from nursing to engineering.

The opportunity to learn by doing is invaluable not just because it teaches the skill or art being studied. It is important for all the incidental learning that goes with it. If you are learning to make or mend something you inevitably make mistakes which you have to put right. That means you’ll also learn about failure, setbacks, trial and error, the importance of judgement, the value of experience and much more. You’ll need patience, persistence and perseverance, respect for the tools and materials you are working with and a range of skills relating to dexterity and cognition that cannot be developed any other way. In addition you’ll probably be under-studying an expert or master craftsman in their field which brings a whole range of social skills within the ambit.

Making things is good for us, not just because it provides opportunities for personal satisfaction and boosting self-esteem, but also because the benefits to us as individuals and the societies we comprise cannot be gained in any other way.

What do you think? Share your thoughts...

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