What Learning to Code Means at Makers
At Makers, we’re big fans of self-directed learning because we believe this equips you to be the best software developer you can be.
After Makers had been open for only a few weeks, we described the original seeds of our teaching philosophy:
“It’s impossible to teach people how to code. It’s only possible to help them to learn to code.”
This is part of why we started building the course in the first place:
“Makers Academy is not for everyone. Some people are okay investing the time and money into getting a computer science degree and that’s great. Others are okay with the inefficiencies in teaching themselves and just want to learn enough to get by. For the rest, we’re building Makers Academy.”
We recently launched a Fellowship, which made the course more accessible. One of our 2017 Fellows Dominic Vernon shares his thoughts on how our teaching philosophy differs from that of traditional education.
There is a very big difference in the way material is delivered here at Makers.
At school, you’re given everything you need to know and you’re almost taught to pass an exam. You’re not really learning in the same way at all.
At Makers, you’re encouraged to be active in your own learning rather than have it passively given to you.
To learn a language you need to be immersed in a culture…you can’t just do it three hours a week. You need to really get to grips with it.
It’s the same with any kind of learning — you just need to get into it and have the support of people who know what they’re doing.
You need to just get stuck in and not be afraid to get things rolling or to try do things differently.
The challenges of this approach is that at first, we very much wanted some sort of measure of how we were doing. With this style of learning, there isn’t really any measure of how you’re learning … an objective measure anyway.
It’s very much ‘are you progressing’ rather than ‘have you reached a certain point’. To adjust, we personally set our own goals and move forward from that.
This approach ultimately works better because I feel in control of my own learning.
I feel confident with what I want to do and what I want to achieve — I also feel like I’m given the tools (and ‘the scaffolding’, as everyone calls it) to achieve them.
Ultimately, that in the end helps you get a job. You have to learn how to rely on yourself a lot more than usual.
Back at university (which I didn’t finish), I think a lot of stuff was given to me, rather than my taking an active role in finding out things on my own. I wonder if I might approach that differently now that I’ve gone through the process of the last three weeks.
When I started taking ownership of my own education, it just gave me a lot of self confidence and motivation — I was so much more engaged with life. To be honest I was expecting to be really emotionally drained at the end of each day. I don’t feel that.
I was tired for the first few days to adjust to a new schedule but a lot of times I could just keep going… I really enjoy what I’m doing.
The way it’s being delivered, has given me the energy to continue into the weekend, see friends, and keep going.
Confidence is definitely something I’ve gained as well — now I can do side projects or different things on my own or a whole load of other things.”
“As Dominic has mentioned, at Makers we’re big believers in self-directed learning.” says our Head of Education Sam Morgan.
“Learning is what we’re built for! Making meaning from information is the most natural thing in the world for us. A lot of education tries to impose, rather than draw out, meaning.
This can be demotivating and exhausting. If it happens a lot, it can lead to serious learning barriers that take careful unpicking to get over.
That doesn’t mean you’ll be left to fend for yourself: but it does mean that we’ll expect you to be led by you. Passion and motivation are key — they’re the fuel for practice, and the relationship between practice and skill is simple: more is better.
If you’re a better developer than you were yesterday, and you’re having fun: you’re on the right track.
It’s important to know how you’re doing, and even more important to know how you improve: but narrow assessment culture has drifted out of touch with reality. We want you to do great work and be fulfilled as a professional developer. That’s expansive, not limiting.”
Mindset is an idea explored by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck in decades of research on achievement and success.
At Makers, we focus on helping our developers to develop a growth mindset:
“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success — without effort. They’re wrong.
In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work — brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”
Maker Marcus Gardiner talks here about the meta-learnings he discovered on his coding journey, illustrating the concept of mindset with this graphic:
“At its heart, the core of our educational approach is simple; we trust the developers to grow and learn as they see fit,” says Makers coach Ed Withers.
“Our responsibility is to create the learning environment and to accelerate their self-directed improvement of skills and behaviours they they’ve set out to achieve.
The fascinating part is how we have created a course supported by the coaching team that encourages and enables self-direction and allows students to transform themselves by realising they are so much more capable and independent than they thought they were.
Anything you do yourself gives you confidence more than it being done to you.”