It doesn’t really matter what you’re hoping to learn – airplane mechanics, nitrogen generators (see Nigen.com), law – practical learning is a learning methodology that can work for you because it’s learning by doing stuff for real, not just reading about it. Think less – admittedly important – reading materials and more hands-on projects and activities that make learning practical and, well, not boring!
Here’s some of what you need to know.
Application is Key
Really, you want to understand concepts by not simply reading about them but by applying them in a way that really cements your understanding; connecting the dots between theory and real-life situations.
Get into hands-on activities, projects, or simulations tied to what you’re learning. Say you’re into coding—work on a coding project. Build a basic program, tackle errors, and see how your code turns into a functional app. The nitty-gritty of doing it is where the magic happens.
For example, say you’re learning to code. Instead of just cramming syntax rules, roll up your sleeves for a coding project. Start small, create something like a to-do list app. When you run into errors (which you will), figuring out and fixing those is where the real learning kicks in.
Mistakes are Opportunities
Speaking of mistakes, you don’t want to shy away from mistakes
On the contrary, it’s how you can start to even reach any kind of mastery because you deepen your understanding big time.
Adopt a growth mindset. When you goof up, don’t freak out, says HBR. Instead, figure out why it happened, and actively look for ways to fix it. Break it down: Was it a conceptual misunderstanding, or did you just need more practice? Learning from mistakes is a skill in itself.
For example, say you’re learning a new language. Pronunciation blunders happen (more details). Instead of being disheartened and speaking it less, make speaking a regular thing. Maybe even record yourself and compare it to native speakers.
Collaboration Improves Learning
Teaming up with others often helps a lot more than you’d think as it means getting a mix of different viewpoints, and skill sets; even preparing you for real-world situations where group problem-solving is very much a big part of things.
You want to jump into group projects, discussions, or study sessions. Share ideas, listen to others, and work together on nailing common goals. Learning how to divide up tasks based on everyone’s strengths, as well as using tools like shared documents and communication apps to keep collaboration flowing is an essential life skill.
Think about a research project. Working with your colleagues lets you bring different strengths to the table. Maybe one person excels at crunching data, another is a wordsmith, and someone else can make really fantastic presentations. Regular check-ins and brainstorming sessions can very well turn a good project into a great one.
You want to give practical learning a try! And these three tips are a great place to start.