And how to implement them for educators and learners
Did you know that the average person retains only about 5% of the information they hear during a lecture?
The NTL Institute did some research on information retention and came up with the following conclusion:
For maximum retention discussion groups, practice by doing, and teaching others is far superior to what the traditional school system is doing like lectures, audiovisual presentations, and demonstrations.
Partly because of that, some schools have adopted the flipped classroom concept. As a learner, you:
study the material at home at a pace that suits your learning needs.
regroup in the classroom for discussions and hands-on workshops. Teachers mentors students.
further your knowledge back at home with all the insights from their class/group discussions.
According to the University of Texas, flipped classrooms have the following benefits:
Increased student participation;
Shared knowledge; and
Better feedback loop for students and teachers.
So, are flipped classrooms the solution to turn students into super-learning machines?
Not completely, I’d argue, but it’s a great step to keep the best benefits of a physical school while giving more freedom for students to explore learning material in their own time. Not everyone learns at the same speed, and allowing students to take the time they need solves a lot of issues.
How I came to care about better education — you can probably relate!
Years ago, when I was in college, I wish I could have followed my chemistry classes at 0.5x the speed, while greatly accelerating my software engineer classes to at least 2x the speed. Ultimately, I dropped out after two years. Lectures bored me to death. Chemistry was going too fast. Software courses were too slow. I felt powerless and my learning was hindered, so I sought a better way.
Schools, I thought, weren’t for me.
You see what I’m talking about, right? Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses but are forced to learn the same way!
Since dropping out, I became a successful software engineer, building a few multi-million dollar software. I’ve become a serial entrepreneur across various technology-related fields. And to my surprise, I also became a rising photographer, a top writer on Medium, and an innovative educator.
In the past two years alone, I’ve learned over 60 new skills, some of which I train people on. I did that without spending a single minute sitting in a classroom, and for the most part, I learned them for free. Heck, for some of them, I even got paid to learn them (and you absolutely can do it too)!
3 things you need to provide quality education
In this section, I’ll go through 3 proven ways to help anyone skill up. What’s important to note here is that they can be applied in schools or not and by students and/or teachers.
Something important to note is that “education” doesn’t mean “schools”. Here’s what it means:
Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits.
Education is a process.
Below, we’ll explore three processes that truly facilitate learning.
1. Self-exploration and individual practice
We live in a world of information overload. One of the most common problem learners tell me is that they don’t know where to start because there’s too much noise out there. And because of that most people either give up too quickly or don’t even start. This, of course, doesn’t make for a good process!
Engaging with your curiosity and creativity is crucial for quality learning.The problem with the traditional schooling system is that it’s designed to do the exact opposite of that. It has remained mostly unchanged from the industrial revolution, where what was required was qualified labour, whereas nowadays, machines do work better than humans. For the most part, we don’t need arms and hands anymore, we need creativity fostered by curiosity.
But this is not enough. Knowledge without practice isn’t much different from a shiny golf club sitting at the back of a car’s trunk. Deliberate practice is key. That’s why workshops are nice, but they’re not enough. People should do more individual practice. That is, practicing skills on your own.
If we look back at the pyramid of learning from above, learners retain about 75% of what they learn through practice. Practicing in groups is nice, but the main issue is that group practice ultimately isn’t equal. Some people will do more than others, but also, you rarely get to practice all aspects of what you’re trying to learn as a group. Rather, groups usually use the divide-and-conquer method. When the group dismantles, you realize you haven’t even practiced 25% of the techniques the group practiced.
You can’t learn to sing by watching others sing. If that was the case, people watching The Voice would all be professional singers!
2. Participating in group learning
While it may seem like I am against any form of group learning, it isn’t so. Learning in groups is the best part of the school system. When they allow it.
Participating in group discussions greatly increases your capacity to think critically. You see viewpoints you would not have thought about and can have multiple points of reference to retain more information. Verbalizing things you’ve previously learned also helps you create stronger connections in your brain. That’s why, according to the pyramid of learning, you retain about 50% of what you learn through group discussions.
A mastermind group is a peer-to-peer mentoring concept used to help members solve their problems with input and advice from the other group members. What’s powerful about them is that they’re concrete problems real people have. Whereas in the traditional school system, you tend to solve theoretical problems from reference books, mastermind groups have the benefit of actually helping others. As such, people are more inclined to participate and take action on the advice given.
In the online world, joining communities of people learning the same skills can be greatly beneficial. While it’s nice to take in the knowledge imparted by others, I believe the real power comes from sharing your knowledge, experience, and expertise. Remember, you retain about 90% of what you teach. If today I can call myself an educator, it’s because I have shared my experience in writing, through various communities and on blogs.
The main benefits of all group learning forms come from theaccountability you get, the acquisition of knowledge from peers, and the teaching to others. I added emphasis on accountability because outside necessity, it’s the greatest factor in getting you to take action. Remember, knowledge without practice isn’t true learning. Members of learning groups tend to be more proactive in their learning and practice more deliberately.
3. Doing one-on-one mentorship
Every hero needs a guide.
One-on-one mentorship, like group learning, provides much-needed accountability. Moreover, it guides your learning. Remember how one of the biggest problems with learning nowadays is information overload? Mentors can help you cut through the noise, either by showing your the right material to focus on based on your goals, or by asking the right questions so you figure it out on your own.
Another big problem with education is gauging your progress on any skill you practice. Not all skills are created the same, and as such, no universal grading system can ever work for all skills. A mentor can help you figure out how to grade your performance and what key metrics to focus on. They customize your grading system so it’s adapted to you and the skills you want to learn.
The above problem is more and more prevalent as more people start learning more outside of schools. Whereas in school, you have the semblance of learning “thanks to” the grading systems, in online education and real-life practice, it’s ever more ambiguous. Mentors can give you thefast and detailed feedback loop you need to readjust your course of action.
Some teachers and professors allow their students to see them after class to ask questions. Students who take advantage of that “mentoring” service perform better in exams, but more importantly, they learn more, and better.
How to implement the 3 processes
As an educator
Note: In this article, and especially in this section, the word “educator” means someone responsible for the education of others. School teachers are a subset of that. Same with tutors, coaches, and mentors.
Note 2: Learners refer to someone learning. Students are a subset of that. Same with anyone deliberately learning things outside of school, whether at home or the workplace.
1. Self-exploration and individual practice
The flipped classroom concept is a good starting point to facilitate self-exploration and individual practice. The issue you need to take into account is student accountability. What will make it so they’ll want or feel like they need to explore on their own?
Most students study for tests, not for the knowledge they’ll get or skills they’ll build. That’s the sad truth. The educator’s job is to make the learner want to learn. The only way to make that happen is to know your learners. Every single one of them is driven by different things. To keep them motivated, they have to feel like they’re in control.
Instead of telling them how to do something, let them create their own action plan. Your role is that of a guide, not the hero. Mentor them into best practices, but let them “fail”. They need to learn from their mistakes. Let them set milestones, but coach them into the process and keep them accountable. This is called personal instruction.
2. Group learning
If you get access to a physical location, like a school, for example, you have the upper hand here, provided management gives you enough flexibility. As mentioned above, discussion groups allow students to retain about 50% of the information. I’d argue it’s likely more than that since when you’re sharing your ideas, you are essentially teaching what you know — meaning you’d retain closer to 90% of the information.
But since students can now learn on their own at home or in the environment of their choice, workshops and mastermind groups should be a top priority. Workshops are a great way to foster collaboration, which is extremely frequent in the marketplace. Ultimately, workshops are a way to practice together on a project everyone in the team cares about. The implementation of it will be different for each educator. A good example are writing workshops.
Most of this can also be done online through video conference, but it’s a little harder, especially if the collaboration has physical components to it :). Still, group discussions and masterminds can be done online. While this can be done with Facebook or LinkedIn Groups or forums, live calls tend to yield better results since it engages more active participation.
3. One-on-one mentorship
The role of an educator has evolved quite a lot in recent years. In the flipped classroom model, the teacher acts a lot more like a mentor instead of a “dictator”. This is great. The issue is that teachers rarely can support the class size they’re being assigned.
One way to mitigate that is to try the have some of the best students help others. This is called peer-to-peer learning. It’s a win-win-win situation if you can pull it off. The teacher gets more time with others. The student helping others get to retain more information since they’re teaching it, and the struggling students get one-on-one mentorship.
In non-classroom situations, the educator can direct their learners to online or on-site tutors. It’s a competitive market, and the learner has the upper hand; there’s more supply than demand. The challenge here is to guide the learner to the right mentor for them.
According to Ariel Margolis, a former teacher and school principal, that can also be done even in classroom situations. With the power of social media and internet, students can learn from adult mentors across the globe, thus flattening the classroom walls. This isn’t laziness on the teacher’s part, this is giving their students access to the best of the best, no matter your geographic location.
As a learner
1. Self-exploration and individual practice
Define what it is you’re looking to learn and why. Most people develop new skills as a means, not an end. What is your end goal?
Create an action plan. Focus on the process, not the results. A simple action plan could be to practice programming or writing for 30 minutes every weekday for example. For most people, it’s much more motivating to think about practicing for 30 minutes versus writing an 800-word long essay.
Don’t skip a day. You want to make this a habit. The process has to become so instinctual that even if you’re thinking of procrastinating, you’re already practicing without realizing it. It’s better to practice 10 minutes every day than to practice 30 minutes every 3 days. It will be hard the first 15–20 days, but if you push through, it will start becoming more habitual.
Before jumping on learning new skills, do some research on different ways to learn them. Diversify the material you’re thinking of using. Use books, podcasts, blogs, online courses, mentors, etc. And whatever knowledge you acquire, always remember to put it into practice. For most skills, spend 70% of your time on practice and 30% on acquisition of knowledge.
2. Group learning
As much as possible, try to join communities that have a common interest in the skills you want to learn. A quick search on Facebook or LinkedIn usually yields good results. If you are in a city, you may have access to organized group meetups on websites like meetup.com.
Nowadays, thanks to great internet speeds and live video technology, it’s easier than ever to organize mastermind groups, even when you’re not physically together. If you can’t find one, organized one! Connect with like-minded people on LinkedIn and share your learning experiences.
Some online courses give access to private groups or forums. Partake in them. Ask questions, but more importantly, answer others’ questions to the best of your knowledge. Remember, by teaching others, you retain 90% of what you learned. In those groups and forums, feel free to organize live group discussions on Zoom or Google Meeting.
3. One-on-one mentorship
The coaching business has been increasing in value year over year, and with good reason. People are starting to realize the power of getting individualized help from an expert in the skills you want to learn. A simple Google search with the terms “coach”, “tutor”, or “mentor” will yield enough results.
The big problem with most solutions is that it’s an expensive service if you want quality help. A tutoring platform I found had a high school kid tutoring on Law for $30/hour. Avoid platforms that allow anybody to become a tutor without vetting them first.
In SkillUp Academy, we vet every trainer (coach/tutor) we want to work with. Not only that, they have to have proven experience teaching the skills they say they want to teach. Getting a quality trainer is important, because some may waste both your time and money.
In addition to SkillUp Academy’s Trainership program, you can trade skillswith other learners. If I’m good at programming and want to learn to play the guitar, and you’re good at playing the guitar and want to learn programming, the app will propose a match. It’s the only way I know of to learn skills from people with more experience than you, at no cost at all!
Education doesn’t have to be bad. We can change that, but it starts with realizing that there is a problem, followed by realizing that we’re capable of making it better. Raising that awareness isn’t easy, but we need ambassadors like you to move the needle.
If you’re a learner, realize that the options you choose are a vote to the system you choose. If you’re fed up with the school system, yet pay your university tens of thousands of dollars, you’re helping them keep the status quo. And if think that a diploma will get you a job, think again!
If you’re an educator and can’t stand how your learning organization is run, you can change that. Maybe not within that same organization, but in another or another one you create yourself. In any case, don’t give up. We can make this happen!
If you want to be prepared for a better tomorrow, then SkillUp! Check out SkillUp Academy!