Learn by teaching someone else

By Mike
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Whether you’re a beginning coder or an expert, you’ll often encounter confusion. Maybe you had a game plan and now things aren’t making sense.

My goal for you, as a teacher myself, is that you don’t just follow what I say but have your own insights, so that you can work yourself out of confusion like this.

In this situation, an enjoyable learning hack for going beyond your teachers is teaching the material to someone else.

Say you’re learning to code. You’ve read about language details and maybe tried a few out. Perhaps you got a short program to work.

But do you really understand what you did? It’s very common that you get code to work by fiddling with it, but you may not actually remember what you did later. You may not even be aware of which change was the important one.

Say you’re debugging and you’ve reached the end of your rope. Nothing seems to make sense.

In both of these situations, you need some way of re-engaging the material, some way of getting a different perspective on it, so you can dig into possible points of confusion.

So teach the concept in question to someone else. As a professional programmer, many times when I learned something new and felt confusion, I would go to another programmer and explain my problem. I can’t count how many times I found the answer myself before I even finished explaining it.

Are you working alone and you don’t have anyone to explain it to? Try explaining it to a stuffed animal, an inanimate object, or a rubber duck. I’m not joking.

In the book The Pragmatic Programmer, there are stories about programmers who noticed how the act of explaining a bug to someone else would help them hit on the answer themselves. If there was no one else to explain it to, they would explain it to a rubber duck. It’s a kind of psychological trick, but it really works.

If you’d like to explore lessons with me on this or any other topic, please contact me today! I’ll teach you and I’ll also help you teach yourself.

Copyright 2020, Mike Mossey
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