Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Coach taught, player learned

Earlier today there was an email exchange amongst the Enginerds at Usertesting about pairing on deploys. Part of the exchange reminded of an article I had recently read by John Kessel. John Kessel is the Director of Beach Volleyball, Education and Grassroots Programs as well as one of the most sought after lecturers by coaches world wide. He is also somebody who has a direct positive impact on my own coaching philosophy. (For those who aren't aware, I coach High School and 12U Boys Volleyball and have found it highly relevant to what I do day to day on a software engineering team as a Team Lead)

So this article, "Coach taught, or player learned" (link below), highlights 5 things John has learned about learning:
  1. Athletes learn when they are SELF-motivated; intrinsic learning and guided discovery are vastly superior for retention/learning.
  2. The reward of athletes is achieving the goal, so take advantage of that in your teaching process.
  3. Deliberate practice, aka focused on what THEY are interested in, maximizes the learning process.
  4. Coopetition, cooperation and competition, makes for the best learning by athletes. We learn best, and the most, when we collaborate with others.
  5. That which you teach, you learn. The more athletes have to explain something to others, the better they get it.
It was thing #5 that I related to the earlier email exchange, "That which you teach, you learn. The more athletes have to explain something to others, the better they get it." I think the "explain something to others" is and should be an important part of our teams culture. It's why when Suan Yeo suggests pairing with somebody familiar with code to pair on deploys, I think "Maybe not. Maybe they should pair with somebody who doesn't know the code on deploys".

Sometimes as developers we make assumptions  (we are only human :) ) . And often times those assumptions are incorrect. It's through explaining something to somebody else that we realize fallacies in our reasoning. And through that explanation we learn and grow as a team.

With that said, I would encourage everyone to take the time to explain the Why, the How, the What to somebody else unfamiliar to not only learn yourself, but to also teach others.

I highly recommend reading this article when you have 10-15 minutes and are looking to further your understanding of learning: http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Volleyball/Features/2015/January/23/Coach-Taught-or-Player-Learned

Special thanks to Paul Hepworth for asking me to explain my understanding to him, thus ironing out assumptions I had made about our environments and leading to further learning.

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