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Learn by Doing

Nov 27, 2014

Children have been learning by trial and error from the very first steps they took, the very first words they spoke and the very first things that they did. A child does not learn how to walk in one attempt – learning to walk takes falling and getting up numerous times, until finally, after many attempts, the first few steps are made.

In our previous blog, we explored how the same method of learning by doing can be applied to language acquisition, with an example of children making hundreds of attempts to be able to pronounce a word -- from "ga...  ga... " to  "water".

Returning to the ‘trial and error’ way of learning - in this article, we explore how it has been revolutionized in the world of chess.

Losing is a part of every sport, and losing is what motivates us to become better next time and win. But with chess, it takes a huge amount loses to go from beginner to a better player. Sometimes, it takes years to actually learn enough from your mistakes and evolve into a better player. However, learning chess has never been easier than now – with specially crafted chess databases, learning and playing softwares. With the advent of technology, the possibilities are becoming ennumerous. A player can now learn by practicing different moves separately and if they make a mistake – the program gives a hint on what could have been wrong. This way, chess players are able to quickly learn from their mistakes by going back and repeating the moves that were most difficult. Powerful chess engines have become a chess player's best buddy when it comes to analyzing his games. These powerful computers points out the mistake a player makes, and gives him the best variations. 


The evidence suggests strongly that expert chess players discover combinations because their programs incorporate powerful, selective heuristics (experience based techniques such as ‘trial and error’) and not because they think faster or memorize better than other people.

                   - Herbert A. Simon and Peter A. Simon

(Trial and error search in solving difficult problems: Evidence from the game of chess. Behavioral Science, Vol 7(4), 1962, 425-429) 

So in other words, having a personal program for chess learning will get you ahead of the crowd and the ability to learn from ones mistakes is a critical part in the learning experience.

The same pattern can be found in most modern games for smartphones or tablets – if you are having difficulty with a certain area of a game – you can always return and try again.
But this kind of learning experience is nothing new – it has existed long before the first smartphones were made available. As mentioned above, children do not start walking, speaking or reading instantly, at some point of their lives – children fall and get up, they mumble random sounds and produce words and they struggle with recognizing different symbols until they understand them.

And now, children can try different chess training lessons, receiving a bundle of benefits both for their mind and health by having fun, and in case of getting stuck – they can always return to the previous lesson and try again. This has opened a whole new experience for the young ones, because now they can view the process of learning, see the results and motivate themselves to do even better. Children can now have their own programs, which help them achieve better results.

 True learning is figuring out how to use what you already know in order to go beyond what you already think.

                                                 - Jerome Bruner

The idea of actually taking action to see whether one will fail or win might sound crazy to introverts, however, when the action is performed in a controlled environment (chess training game) and not in a real-world situation (an actual chess match) the risk factor diminishes. This is why “Learning by Doing” can be easily applied to all types of character types as long as there is a controlled environment.

Learning by doing is considered by many as a great learning strategy, because by trying something hands-on, children get the full package of experience, pleasure, motivation and attention.

Chess was used as an example, because the game perfectly shows the progress path a child can make – going from a person unfamiliar with chess, to a great strategist, critical thinker and high-achiever.

Do you think that ‘learning by doing’ is superior to other ways of learning?

Should schools focus more on hands-on activities instead of pouring knowledge into the heads of children?

Let us know what you think in the comments below.


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