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Learning By Doing Rather Than Schooling by Natalie Hunter in Guest Articles

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In the issues of pedagogy, empirical learning is often in contrast with direct schooling. Direct schooling can be thought as going to a school in a classroom setting and being taught information instead of being given hands-on training for a particular skill. Nothing is necessarily wrong with the classroom setting, whether in a traditional sense or in an online school. However, empirical training offers some insights that the classroom setting may not be able to offer. Empirical learning gives a student a chance to learn more by hand or by experience so that their skills and insights can be matured from training.

When people often think of school, they think of student being lectured by a teacher on course subject material. With empirical learning, a student is trying out different theories, methods, skills and problem-solving activities to learn the subject matter. Granted, not all knowledge can be done empirically. It is hard, for example, for a person to learn everything there is about history, such as critical insights in historical events, by empirical insights. However, many fields of thought and training can be done through apprentice work or experimental learning. Experimental learning, for example, is when the student can learn from their mistakes from a trial and error approach in learning. Apprentice work allows a student to work under the watchful eye of a teacher or highly trained professional to learn more about a trade.

This is especially important to stress with professional degree programs. Although there are merits to schools and classes that teach professional skills like mechanics, most times on-site experience works the best. Many career schools do integrate real-world labs where the student can experiment on real equipment to see how machines work. For example, an auto mechanic school may have a car displayed where students try to figure out what is wrong with the car in their diagnostic classes. However, more than just specific professional skills can integrate empirical learning into their curriculum.

The Educause Learning Initiative, a non-profit organization, argues that “authentic learning” is a combination of both empirical and classroom experiences. Obviously, someone might not be able to understand the complexities of mathematics, and the essential skills of reading are a must. However, with employers becoming more willing to invest in higher threshold candidates in a tight job market, people need to show their best merits in job interviews and what they can offer through a resume with experience. This is why every subject matter, from the liberal arts to business, is integrating empirical learning.

A typical learning environment can offer many experiences, simulations, real world examples, and other empirical learning tools within their curriculum. Researchers in the liberal arts must perform experiments or research projects where labs are used to prove research projects as true or false. A business school has case study examples and simulations that helps a student understand the intricacies of negotiating, business relations, and human resources with problem solving experiments or running businesses scenarios. Medical or veterinarian schools can have their students be present during examinations and treatments, rather than stuck at home memorizing information all day.

Many subject matters that do not offer concrete professional skills can still be taught in an empirical manner. Say a student is interested in the fields of spirituality and religious study. The classroom model would lecture to the child or adult about religious history and comparative religion. But, empirical learning can offer a chance for a spiritual student to participate in a religious event or prayer service. Religious events give the students particular insights into a particular religious experience. In alternative fields of medicine, such as holistic wellness and higher plains of consciousness, learning about alternative subjects in a classroom setting does not give the student the richness of the experiences. Having meditation circles, performing acupuncture as an apprentice, and actually ingesting different herbs to experience first-hand their effects on the body can give the learner a richer understanding of this field of thought.

The classroom experience has its definitive role in offering students facts and information to better understand the world around them. However, empirical learning ascends education to a new level of thinking and doing. Every subject from pre-professional degrees, business, medical, liberal arts and alternative curricula should be open to an empirical learning, non-classroom setting. Through this learning model, students can learn new skills as well as learn about themselves.

Natalie Hunter
Guest Blogger
Dragon Intuitive

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