Education gets a bad rap when envisioned as one teacher lecturing rows and rows of passive students. The learning process involves so much more than that. Most of us, whether we’re talking about academics, arts, or sports, learn by doing. In fact, in order to learn most quickly, we should increase our active practice.
Eric Scott, CEO of Dolphin Micro Custom Software, shared an insightful educational fable on Quora a few years ago:
A pottery teacher split her class into two halves.
To the first half she said, “You will spend the semester studying pottery, planning, designing, and creating your perfect pot. At the end of the semester, there will be a competition to see who’s pot is the best”.
To the other half she said, “You will spend your semester making lots of pots. Your grade will be based on the number of completed pots you finish. At the end of the semester, you’ll also have the opportunity to enter your best pot into a competition.”
The first half of the class threw themselves into their research, planning, and design. Then they set about creating their one, perfect pot for the competition.
The second half of the class immediately grabbed fistfulls of clay and started churning out pots. They made big ones, small ones, simple ones, and intricate ones. Their muscles ached for weeks as they gained the strength needed to throw so many pots.
At the end of class, both halves were invited to enter their most perfect pot into the competition. Once the votes were counted, all of the best pots came from the students that were tasked with quantity. The practice they gained made them significantly better potters than the planners on a quest for a single, perfect pot.
We often tell our students that many mistakes lie between where they begin and where they want to score. Only by making those mistakes before test day–and learning from them–can test-takers expect peak performance when it matters.
You can’t just talk about success. Learning requires doing. Just as any basketball player practices hundreds of free throws a week, any test taker should commit to high-quality practice tests and review. Just taking tests is not enough. The students in the pottery parable had a teacher to help them learn from their mistakes. We all need coaches to reach our most lofty goals. However, we can’t reach those goals unless we put in the work. Just start and make all the mistakes you must to get to your best work!