As a kid I spent much of one summer, sitting on the curb in front of my home, watching Mike, the cute boy across the street, riding his bike in daring ramp jumps in his driveway. (My “surprise” bike wouldn’t arrive until my birthday). Then Mike would speed out onto the street, closer to me, turning his bike in tight undulating curves like a never-ending “S.” I watched this show at least a couple dozen times yet never tired of it.
One Saturday morning my father was making thin Danish pancake (French crepes to you, perhaps) in his electric skillet, standing at the kitchen counter near the window. I was daydreaming in the front lawn … well watching Mike. When his mother called him to breakfast, he ran inside, leaving his bike on the lawn.
Without thinking I ran over, jumped onto his bike and began steering in that “S” pattern down the street. My startled father rushed out of our home, racing after me, knowing I would fall. He still had the skillet in his hand. But I didn’t fall. In fact I didn’t think about falling even though it was my first time on a bike.
How to help others begin learning a skill.
Some researchers brought two groups to a bowling alley. None had ever played ten pin bowling before. They played for several couple of hours.
Then one group was taken aside and received private coaching, focusing on what they were doing wrong, then how they could improve. The other group was asked to watch a video that was edited to include only the segments of times they had done well. Guess which group then performed better when they were asked to bowl again? Yes, the second group.
Yet there’s a second lesson. When two experienced groups are taken through that same exercise – doing the sport or other task with which they already have some mastery, there is no difference in how they perform afterwards.
Beginners learn faster by literally seeing what they’re doing right.
Tips I take from my riding Mike’s bike and from these experiments:
• Video can be a powerful teaching tool – and often a more comfortable way than being told what to do…better.
• Repeatedly watching a video of someone who is a master at the task I seek to learn – or an edited video of my best early attempts at it is a solid way to jumpstart my learning.
• Seeing a task done well by someone I like or admire helps keep my attention on the task – and enables me to learn faster.
Learn by watching then doing.
Suppose you want to teach someone something quickly in a comfortable way and it involves just 3 – 5 steps. For example, if suppose you want your friends to know what to do when someone is choking. Gather at least two friends. Ask one to lie on the floor. Let the other friend see you tilt your prone friend’s head back, chin up, take your finger and move the tongue out of the way… and if you haven’t all cracked up laughing by now, do tell.
Yet, research shows that seeing something demonstrated then described (each step) then demonstrated again several times, is a faster way to learn a skill than simply watching. As you’d intuitively expect – and Ken Blanchard has made a fortune pointing out – when one is specifically praised when doing well in the practice then one learns faster and enjoys it more.