Do we learn better when we work things out for ourselves?

Image result for plumbingI think I have made a discovery. But to know what it is you have to be willing to read about my life and a bit of plumbing.

I was repairing some outdoor plumbing which had been damaged by the recent freezing winter weather. I live in rural Wales. It can be cold.

I did not want to buy new plastic fittings – the expense – so I knew that with a few wraps of PTFE tape I could reuse the current joints. I searched but I had none.

We also have a number of taps inside the upstairs shower room that shut off the water to parts of our large barn style home. I was asking my wife to turn these shut offs on and off while I checked the repairs I had been able to make. She commented that it was difficult to know what each shutoff controlled. I made a mental note to get some tie on labels.

I asked if she was going shopping and she said not ’til the next day. I said I need two things.

The next day she asked me what I wanted for the plumbing. I said PTFE tape and.. Image result for ptfe tapehmnnn… PTFE tape and … What was the second thing??? I had no idea. I knew I need two things.

She went shopping and that night I went to bed still not able to remember the second thing. I dreamt about plumbing and when I awoke on the morning I suddenly remembered that the second thing was tie-on labels. Was I pleased? Yep.

But that was months ago and let me tell you I will remember those tie-on labels forever. It will be a line on my gravestone – “remember the tie-on labels”.

Was my learning better because I had worked it out myself? Not really. What I had done is worked hard at the recall process and that is now very very secure.

My point is that we do not learn better by working it out for ourselves but what is important is that we forget or almost forget something and then work hard to recall it. That is what secures the learning not that I have ‘done it myself’.

I wonder is this is why some teachers think that learning is better when kids work it out for themselves, when this is an erroneous belief?


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