Friday, 28 September 2012


As I've found out recently, learning through workshops and similar environments is very popular these days. In the context of my training to be a fencing coach, everything seems to be workshop based, and I'm sure the same is true in a lot of writing environments.

My worry is that it may not be the most effective way to teach people something. What do workshops do? They give people an opportunity to put across their ideas and try things while getting feedback. Now, there are undoubtedly many circumstances in which that is the most appropriate thing (sharing pre-written work, for example) but there are also occasions when it isn't ideal.

Because it isn't really a teaching tool. It's a sharing tool. It's a great way for people to pool their knowledge, but when dealing with a new thing, it becomes a way for them to pool their ignorance. It becomes a way for the loudest members of the group to talk while everyone else sits there bored. It becomes a way for there to be awkward silences before the workshop leader supplies an answer, in a way that could have saved us time and effort if they'd made the effort to teach us it in the first place.

Take individual lessons in my current coaching training. The last time I was there, we were asked to put some together on particular topics. We weren't told how to go about doing that, or the most appropriate way to fit together a fencing lesson. As a result, I, and several other people, spent half an hour messing about trying to work something out from first principles, when we could have been doing it properly.

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