Tag Archives: skills acquisition

The fun in trial and error learning

German Spitz holding a unch of keys
Peg – one of the first dogs to be clicker trained in the UK

As I experiment and play around with getting to grips with the challenges of bringing order to my various projects online, I am struck by the parallels with learning any new skill whether it be a deeper dive into WordPress or Joomla or training a dog.

Hands on – playing around with the tasks – learning by trial and error though choices and decisions made in a reflective way is my approach of choice. I enjoy it – its fun! Decisions influenced, and skills improved, by seeing results I like, and want to repeat, reinforced by an outcome that pleases me and helps me achieve my goals. Whether it be an image appearing as I like on a blog or a dog homing in on a behaviour I’ve clicked – all will be informed by hands-on practice. That it can sometimes be frustrating when I don’t get the results I want doesn’t matter too much – I have learned, through experience, that I can take a break, go back to it later and try a different approach. The dog doesn’t need to get frustrated, and if they do, well, IME they learn to problem solve and find out what they can can do to get me, as the trainer, to adjust my criteria – they have no idea, nor care, what the target behaviour is. So long as they don’t get into trouble, or get corrected for making the choices I’m not interested in, and get what they want out of the negotiation whether it be food or toys, why would they? So long as I can help the dog solve the problem, there is no problem. But sometimes I need help to solve my training problem- so then I go to the experts to help me out, or for enlightenment. And do I really want to try and reinvent the wheel all the time anyway?

At some point any skill is going to be informed by the expertise and skills of those who have been there before and already know how to do it. I can learn from watching others at work; others putting into practise the skills they have honed through their experience. I can learn from them describing and teaching; from their books, workshops, social media, YouTube and webinars. So learning from others – also important. Far less time consuming usually too (just how much time do I want to spend on how to get an image in the place I want it I wonder? <big, big sigh!>)

It will also be informed by people who have studied it as well as put it into practice – the people who do research (both formally and informally), who measure, observe and analyse results. That is what science does. For example understanding what the observable signs in a dog’s behaviour mean can inform what trainers do. It can measure, analyse and examine what is happening when a dog is trained, and how it is learning, but under controlled conditions which aim to isolate the variables in a way that might not be possible in the ‘real world’, so it might be clearer what is happening. That they can’t do that effectively where there are too many variables to take into account doesn’t negate the value of those that do.

So although skills can be acquired in variety of ways – I wonder if I would have enjoyed my exploration of clicker training (indeed, all my training) quite so much if I had only learned how it was supposed to work through an online webinar, in a classroom or by reading a book? I doubt it. I know Peg thought it was great fun too, when all she had to do was ‘behave’ – offer behaviours – and manipulate me into giving her more sausages.

  • The fun in trial and error learning

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