Learning backwards

Dr. Edward de Bono says:

“If you were teaching someone how to use a wood-turning lathe you might use the following sequence: check the machine, switch it on, position the tool in the jaws, position the wood in the chuck, recheck, switch on the drive, observe and control the process … switch off the drive, take out the tool, remove the formed wood, switch off the machine. This is the normal time sequence in which the operation would be carried out and it seems sensible to teach first things first.

But this way of teaching may be quite wrong. It may be best to teach the sequence backwards. Perhaps the first thing we ought to teach is how to switch the machine off, then how to remove the formed wood  … and lastly how to switch it on.” (I am right, you are wrong; page 96)

I have had great success with this method when teaching databases to students about 10 years ago. First I showed them a real database application running, dissected it into its parts, taught them how to build the major building blocks (tables, forms, reports). Database normalization, terminology and other abstract things were the last items they were taught. Learning was extremely fast as well as other benefits. Students were able to make sense of their learning immediately and were enthusiastic and looking forward to each learning session.

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