Friday, April 27, 2012

Education comes not from books, but from practical experience


Education comes not from books, but from practical experience
Education is the transmittance of knowledge or skills from a source to students and other learners. There are two ways of transmitting knowledge, via books or by offering practical experience.  Unlike the practical experience that hands-on activities provide, books are more passive and the authors tend to transmit their knowledge or skills uni-directionally to readers. Practical experience is sometimes important in certain fields to give the big idea and has multiple areas of interpretation and learning experiences.

First consider a situation in which education comes from practical experience and not from books. Experiential learning is superior in most instances of education, because of the higher level of engagement of students that leads to better retainment. For example, one cannot learn to swim or do math by reading a book; one must practice, make mistakes, and learn from the errors. Likewise, many students either volunteer ot take up jobs to learn certain values, handling the public and developing social skills that are not clearly represented in books. Another example is in medical education. Medical students in human anatomy class are not restricted only to book s but have labs to give a big picture and learn visual skills and orientation of the major organ systems and organs. Although it may be learnt from books, practical applications of the knowledge must be learnt as well to become a well rounded physician.   As a result, only when students apply the skills or knowledge they learned in a practical setting such as swimming laps or doing math problems can these skills truly be learned and valued.

In contrast, some subjects must be learned from reading books, and with no practical experience. In many college classrooms World History courses aim to teach students the contributions of Ancient civilization. For example, reading the books and primary sources can give chances for students to give own interpretation of the material. By doing so, students can actively engage with the material and start thoughtful discussions. Likewise, history books compared to other subjects are well written with thorough revision in order to suit the audience of the text. A trip to museum on ancient civilizations is very limiting because there are only specific exhibits. Without background reading and knowledge it is meaningless. Thus in study of history , it  is often times better to gain knowledge from books rather than practical experiences, because there is more room for interpretation. 

All in all, educators must be holistic in their approach to education and gain a fine balance as to when students should be educated through books or practical experience. Thus whether or not an education is gained from practical experience or books is circumstantial. For skill based professions such as Medicine, practical experience provides a better education by applying knowledge to real life situations and thus learn skills with practice. However, for most cognitive and academic subjects,  a strong background knowledge in the often abstract topics can only be obtained through books. As in the case of history, without books, practical experience is pointless. Certain background knowledge is needed from books to make personal connections for essays.

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