Education | January 5, 2023

“Learn by Doing” and project-based learning as efficient training tools

There is an intimate and necessary relation between the processes of actual experience and education. —John Dewey (Experience and Education, 1938)

Project-based learning is a way of applying and expanding knowledge with real cases.

In general, day-to-day life presents us with the opportunity to solve challenging problems, which leads us to use our knowledge and the guidance of our role models. This approach has been proven successful, especially because real-life experience has a deeper impact on us than acquired knowledge.

These learning programs are based on coaching, simulations of practical situations, team-based learning, and sessions on real cases. They are characterized by being: 

  • Attractive
  • Based on the community
  • Integrated
  • Generators of critical skills

Various initiatives, both educational and business, are turning to this type of training program. 

Real cases lead us to use our knowledge and analytical skills to address the real needs of the business. The focus on problem-solving and critical thinking is what makes project-based learning so effective and what makes its “graduates” successful.

It is an effective technique because it helps to root knowledge in our memory. You have a deeper personal connection to that knowledge and the people who use it on a daily basis, and you will be more motivated to use it in the future.

“Learn by doing” as a method for upskilling and growth at a company

In the case of companies, project-based programs should be strategically designed based on the need of the teams and projects. For this reason, graduates become apprentices shaped by the technical experts in the company. They undergo carefully selected training to level the field in terms of skills under the framework of real cases of “productive” projects and teams.

We can make the most of our training if the issues we’re presented with resemble those that actually come up during a team’s day-to-day operation.

Trainees should not only face “plausible cases” or “cases that could come up in their working life.” They should become part of productive teams working on real projects and be assigned small tasks or part of another member’s backlog. Coaches should then review their solution, fix possible errors together, or show them the best way to have solved the issue. And move on to the next real case.

A case study

At Patagonian, we created Nest, a talent incubation program based on the “Learning by Doing” framework that seeks to provide first-job opportunities to people, training them as part of our product teams. This program focuses on hands-on experiences and incorporates coach-based training, simulation, team-based learning, and case-based sessions. Participants immerse themselves in an active and shared learning environment. Team-based learning provides these small groups of attendees with real problems to solve (the “doing” part). Patagonian Nest works in a realistic working environment: A software development company. Therefore, Patagonian Nest training programs include a wide variety of topics, from Web or Mobile Development and QA Automation to UX /UI design.

Each group of participants that enters the program is called a “learning wave”. After three waves, we’re proud to say that 70% of graduates are advancing their career paths in our company today.

Manuel Abruzzo completed his Nest program (Patagonian’s Learn By Doing program) and told us about his experience:

My time at the “NEST QA automation developer Training  Program” was highly focused on the “Learn by Doing” philosophy. Since week 1, I coded with the support of our coaches and rapidly added value to our first project, creating automated tests using Cucumber and Playwright. I learned teamwork methodologies, and how to be part of one when we work remotely. I learned to polish my code gradually, understanding BDD (Behavior Driven Development) methodologies, something entirely new for me. I could not have achieved this without the support of the NEST space. My next goals are to improve my skills in the field of testing to become an expert in QA automation, acquire new skills, and explore other areas of development. I am interested in the future development of DApps and blockchains.

Fernando Estevez completed his Nest Program and told us about his experience:

After learning a lot in the academic environment about different programming concepts, one is left wondering how to bring them all togehter and apply them in a professional environment. That’s when I found Patagonian NEST. I discovered it through a friend who worked at the company and I found the program’s mission and modern methodologies, such as “Learn by doing,” quite exciting.  It’s a privilege to be able to consult and learn with diverse professionals who have years of experience.

The program begins with a first stage that involved absorbing knowledge through videos and guides. It was an excellent opportunity to warm up and see what resources we would need. This changes everything from the get-go. It can be overwhelming to see an established project and have to work on it, initially with fear of making mistakes. But that experience is invaluable, and you discover that it is the result of continuous and constant teamwork, where mistakes are part of it. In this step, we learned to use git-flow, agile methodologies, and good practices.

I felt part of the project from the beginning.  Working with an amazing group of colleagues who are willing and ready to help was key to being productive from the beginning. This project also brings you closer to the client, a person with many years of experience in the industry, which was a key factor in learning another very important aspect of the job: communicating and understanding business needs.”  

In an industry in constant change and growth, where companies struggle to obtain the best talent for their teams, it’s essential to foster creativity in generating opportunities for people looking for their first job or for a career shift. Training programs that strengthen people’s knowledge by immersing them in the day-to-day operation of a team respond to the need for quality and the adequacy of this knowledge to the needs of the market and the company.

By Mariana Riva

Human-centered consultant working with Patagonian since 2013. Today as Director of the Initiatives Department. Specialized in process improvement and human capital management and growth, with a focus on business strategy partnerships. Over 30 years of experience in software development companies.

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