What Helps You Learn?

  • Rod at work


    Points: 33190

    I think I'm in the minority here, because for me the best way that I learn is in a classroom setting. I love having an instructor up there that I can ask questions of, on the spot. (Well, when it's appropriate to ask a question.) Often I'll have an idea about how something might work, but it isn't being covered in the lecture, so I'll ask. Or I'll just not get whatever it is that the instructor is saying, so I'll ask him/her for clarification. Getting it stated a different way can help me tremendously. Even asking after the class is great. You've got the expert there to ask the questions you need answered, there's no better way to learn, from my point of view.

    Where I work now because of the exceedingly tight budget they won't even pay for tissue boxes, let alone training. No classroom training, no online training, no books. So for me the second best way of learning is watching some online training, like Pluralsight or Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA). I pay for Pluralsight and MVA is free. However, although this is the second best way I learn, it doesn't even come close to in class training. Typically it takes me 2 to 3 times as long to learn this way than classroom training. But beggars can't be choosers.

    Kindest Regards, Rod Connect with me on LinkedIn.

  • Squatt Gmail

    Old Hand

    Points: 351

    The process I find most rewarding (but the most painful) is documentation. If I keep a running diary of what I am doing and re-read it along the way, it helps me discover the "gotchya" and helps me avoid mistakes. I know it is not easy getting the team together for code reviews but if you have to explain why you did things a certain way to your peers, you make sure that you are confident with those decision. Brent Ozar and associates, SSC and Google are my best friends!

  • Eric M Russell

    SSC Guru

    Points: 125057

    Applying what you learn in the context of an actual project helps round it out and commit it to memory. Often times an employer will send staff to $,$$$ training, but then afterward the staff are left chomping at the bit because there is nothing going on at the organization in terms of new development. I've even seen some employers who were relectant to encourage training, because they fear their staff will take the knowledge and leave for another job. Of course that type of thinking will also will drive the best people away. That's a very common executive managment anti-pattern.

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 717429

    Gail Wanabee (9/23/2016)

    ...and I forgot to mention that I learn best by reading and doing.

    The "do" part is important for the information I read to stick.

    I agree. If I don't do, I don't remember well.

  • djackson 22568


    Points: 11713

    My favorite? It depends.

    For pure understanding I prefer classroom lecture. Sometimes I prefer written documentation for those topics that can be explained that way.

    For how to, I prefer classroom where they show you, or videos where they show you. I am not a fan of step by step written instructions because too often you can't find the link they refer to, or the wording is wrong, or something similar. There is NOTHING more frustrating than following someone's instructions on MS products like SSRS, and the patch difference means the description you are reading is invalid! If I can see what they did I can usually adapt.

    My favorite method is the stairways you provide. Pick a simple topic, walk through it bit by bit, building on each step. Some of those, SSRS for example, are outstanding.


  • phonetictalk

    Hall of Fame

    Points: 3572

    I learn best on my own. For something brand new, I like examples to follow (rather than a recipe format). For something I already have a base understanding of, then tasks plus blogs enhance my learning the most.

    For a new technology: until I understand the why, I couldn't care less about the how.

    You can tell me big data (for example) is great, but until I know why I should care (i.e. I have a real problem in mind that I think the technology would solve), a presentation or blog that starts hadooping and hiving is going to lose me.

    Madison, WI

  • djackson 22568


    Points: 11713

    sql Sarah (9/23/2016)

    I read that on average, it takes adults 32 times of doing anything to make it a habit!!

    I find that hard to believe. I know that the people on this forum are certainly of above average intelligence. However I have found that 2-3 times is sufficient for me. Since I don't believe I am that unusual, I think 32 is inaccurate.

    Now I also think it depends on two factors, and maybe that is what the article you read was talking about.

    For example, if I have one thing to do, say coding a loop in C++, and I do it 2-3 times in a day, and continue using it at least weekly thereafter, I have it down within 3 tries.

    However, if I do something 3 times over a period of a year, with a multitude of other unrelated tasks in between, that isn't enough except for the simplest tasks.

    So, 32? Not for most people for most things. Maybe 5 for average people, maybe 10, some people being less and some more. Maybe the person who wrote that was a journalist writing an article about how long it takes the media to get a story reported honestly... 🙂


  • Gary Varga

    SSC Guru

    Points: 82166

    I find learning a tiered affair. I think many people are talking about doing something and learning it, however, there hasn't been much (any?) talk of the knowledge and experience of when to perform the task or apply a technique. You cannot learn theory, such as relational theory, without study. This study can be learnt in class, by reading, online courses etc. but cannot be leary by simply following practical tutorials.

    Sometimes I feel that we have plenty of people who can do things but not enough that know when to do things.


    -- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!

  • xsevensinzx

    One Orange Chip

    Points: 25551

    I learned best from hiring a senior DBA with 10+ years on a project. How I got my boss to agree to this is by explaining that I was still a junior and if he ever wanted me to take this role onward, he would need to invest in my training. The best way for me was learning from someone who owned it 100% and then me taking it over from them when I was ready to own it 100%.

    I took some courses too, but nothing prepped me more than working with a senior. The odd thing was that the senior was not specialized in data warehousing and business intelligence. He was a good all-around DBA that taught me the fundamentals. I learned the rest from there and still learning today.

    Could I have done it on my own? Sure, but I worried I would teach myself all the wrong things. Then think it was all the right things going forward.

  • kiwood

    Ten Centuries

    Points: 1070

    Here are the things that I find supper helpful no matter what the medium:

    Put any configuration you can at the front. At any rate, clearly let me know when this is configuration and not part of the main lesson. A link to the what this means is helpful. But at any rate, knowing this isn't part of the lesson helps me a lot.

    The next thing is setting up exercises where I can play with it and try variations on what you have shown me. I learn best when I have exploration time around the lesson. I push it a little further and sometimes the next thing discussed is more confirmation than discovery.

  • akljfhnlaflkj

    SSC Guru

    Points: 76202

    Pictures. I like pictures. If you can draw me a map of the big picture, then break down each section into smaller pictures, that helps me a lot and I can remember it better (of course I keep the picture maps handy).

  • TrailRunner


    Points: 1540

    Articles with single purpose, with diagrams of logic discussed, screen shots, short text explanations, and examples. SQLserverCentral stairways, MsTIPs, DatabaseJournals....

  • srsedate


    Points: 7

    I learn best visually, but also hands-on. Our cognitive ability to process and interpret information visually is often underestimated, and in my opinion requires much less effort than trying to learn something aurally (like in a presentation) or through reading. I think it's important to incorporate data and process visualization when attempting to communicate concepts or ideas, especially when training.

  • djackson 22568


    Points: 11713

    Iwas Bornready (9/26/2016)

    Pictures. I like pictures. If you can draw me a map of the big picture, then break down each section into smaller pictures, that helps me a lot and I can remember it better (of course I keep the picture maps handy).

    Good point. If I might add, I think all too often instructors just start digging in to the material, and you are left wondering how things fit together. I learn quickly, but if I don't understand how it fits together, I find myself focusing on a topic while the instructor has moved on, and possibly missing something. If I know "why" a particular area is being covered, then I can usually ignore any missing information since I know it will be forthcoming.


  • cilla25

    SSC Rookie

    Points: 33

    I, like others, learn best by having a problem to solve. However the presentation of this problem is irrelevant. If I am at work and have to figure out a problem, I will remember it forever, but also if I am in a classroom and am given the answer to resolve a problem, I remember that just as readily once I have completed it.

    It does take understanding the problem, understanding the resolution and being able to physically complete the task though.

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