Learning is NOT Easy

Last week my new sewing machine arrived.  I wanted to get a bit more adventurous with the stitching I could do on the Tartan Head Collars I make for horses, so I bought a new sewing machine.  The one I taught myself to use last year is a 50 year old semi-industrial sewing machine.  My old sewing machine is not conducive to conversations while sewing !  Its pretty noisy.  The trade off is more power (for fixing horse rugs) with increased noise.

The new sewing machine was unwrapped, all the bits were laid out, there was some oohing and ahhing over all the things it could do that my old machine can’t.  Then it sat for a week.  I didn’t touch it.  I was so looking forward to getting my new machine, but then did nothing with it.

The reason for that is that I still remember teaching myself how to use my old machine (self directed learning).  It was a tiring process as I worked through mistakes and figure out all the things I SHOULD be doing.  That memory was clear in my mind.  Had I had someone to show me what to do it might not have been such a painful process (guided learning).  And I’m doing the same thing over again….I’m teaching myself how to use the new sewing machine.  I was anticipating a similar experience; it was a tiring and stressful process as I worked out all the nuances of using a sewing machine.  The new machine sat idle for a week.

Learning is not easy, and the same is true for our horses when we are teaching them something new.  That learning process can be made much easier with thoughtful planning and careful guidance.  To be careful and thoughtful we need to understand the sliding scale that is guided learning versus self directed learning.

Guided learning is where you give the learner the answers, a full set of instructions and even a demo.  They are supervised to make sure they do not stray from the instructions.  This is the way to teach when safety is involved, but it does not allow the learner to work things out (they don’t get to problem solve).  If you stick at this end of the scale too long you end up with dependent learners, they can’t think for themselves.

Self directed learning is what I have been doing with the sewing machines…working it out for myself !  When you are teaching an experienced learner this can be a fun way to let them learn new things.  But it is stressful and can cause frustration.  On a plus side, it creates great problem solvers (assuming they don’t get over stressed and give up!).

Ideally training should slide up and down the scale between guided and self directed learning.  Sometimes the learner needs more guidance, other times less.  We should try to avoid getting stuck at one end of the scale so that we are helping the learner to be a well rounded problem solver.

Well, I best get back to the sewing machine 🙂



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