We recently finished reading Make it Stick at the Blackmill book club. The book talks about the science of learning and teaches how to become better at retaining what we learn using techniques such as spaced interleaved retrieval practice, elaboration, reflection, and more.
Throughout the book, it covers the topic of learning, not education. It says that the responsibility for learning rests with the individual, whereas the responsibility for education and training rests with the institution. The book starts with debunking the idea that teaching should be tailored to different learning styles of the individual students. Instead of trying to make learning easier for the student, we should make the process more deliberate, interactive, and effortful.
Retention of knowledge actually happens when we exert more deliberate effort to interact with the materials. Reading, highlighting, and re-reading materials feels like progress, giving us the illusion of knowledge, and may only help with short-term absorption (for example cramming before an exam). To retain information in a meaningful way, we need to continuously work at it, with small steps over a longer period of time. It reminds me of the concept in engineering practices of: in order to go fast, we need to go slow. It seems counter-intuitive, unproductive, and slow, but research and real world examples do support this approach.
Reading this book made me realise that we follow some of its suggested techniques in our workshops where we follow Bloom's taxonomy for levels of learning. Participants are given the learning materials before the live workshop sessions. This allows them to digest the topics, dissect the ideas, come up with questions, and share examples with the cohort during the interactive discussions. Role playing is also an essential part of the workshop sessions. It serves as an engaging way to learn and practice new skills and avoids the notion of being "talked at" or "lectured". I also adopted the suggested technique for spaced repetition and quizzing from the book when working with associate developers, upskilling them in good engineering practices.
Traditional education focuses on teaching, not learning. It incorrectly assumes that for every ounce of teaching there is an ounce of learning by those who are taught. Remember that the objective of education is teaching and educating. At Blackmill, we believe in continuous learning and growth and thus we continue to fine-tune our workshops based on feedback we receive from participants.
Due to the devastating floods in NSW in recent months, for Q3 we have donated to the Northern River Wildlife Carers Inc. who assist the animals who have been affected. Thank you to all the volunteers who dedicate their time and expertise to help rescue, rehabilitate injured or orphaned animals, and release them back into the wild.
It's been a year since the last time we ran free office hours. For May, we set aside eight slots, twice a week on Mondays and Fridays. These sessions could be used to discuss your product, to pair program on code, to discuss your team culture, or anything else that is on your mind at work. So book a session and come chat to us. Feel free to share this with people around you who could also benefit!
Our first public technical workshop Test-Driven Development with RSpec is on the 6th–9th of June. You will learn everything you need to know to start practising TDD in your Ruby projects and become more comfortable with writing specs.
Our Building Inclusive Teams workshop is on the 20th–23rd of June. It is a step up from our Leading Engineering Teams workshop (23rd–26th of May). In the workshop we discuss some of the most difficult challenges that all leaders face throughout their careers, including issues that inhibit team motivation and productivity. We give you the tools and the right mindset to nurture trust, autonomy, and effective communication. Learn how to reflect, lead, and empower your people to sustainably do their best work.
As always, we keep a couple of complimentary tickets aside for people from minority groups in tech. Get in touch with us if you'd like one.
Transformational or empowering leadership create better leaders in the Internet Age—Geographically dispersed teams are becoming a necessity as the trend of remote working continues. Leaders need to adapt their approach to take this into account.
Stop wasting time: 4 steps to take back your day—a quick read that basically tells us to decide what we want to spend our time on and then use the four D's—Delete, Defer, Delegate, or Diminish.
This Is What Happens When There Are Too Many Meetings—flexible working from home sometimes mean stopping work early to do school pick up and evening home routine. The consequence of that with an increase in the number of meetings during the pandemic, and the async communications in the knowledge industries, many shift some of their work to 9pm at night and work becomes even more intertwined with life.
How to create a Development Framework—a step by step guide on how to build a development framework for your team.
Story Points Revisited—there are various reasons why teams use points estimations but maybe it is time we review this practice and ask ourselves: does it still provide value? or should we consider how we plan future work?
I have always worked as a software engineer, it fits at the intersection of my skills and my passion for solving problems and making things. Over the last few years I have found it most rewarding to help people around me grow. I've done this by seeking out and taking on more management tasks in every project and team I work with.
The biggest challenge in every workplace is communication. We have a tendency to assume that others understand what we mean and this can result in conflict and poor work. What I have learned about communication is that there is no one solution, every situation and group has its own requirements for how communication occurs. The advice I would give anyone is to identify people in your network who are great communicators and ask them for support if you encounter a new or challenging situation.
I love to work on things with social and ethical value. I want to know that I have made a difference to society, even if it is just at the micro level of my friend's lives. Doing things which matter is important to me.
I've recently started setting myself challenges around personal fitness and started running the Parkrun on Saturday mornings. We all know the benefit of exercise but over the last few years it kind of fell by the wayside. Doing a 5k run every Saturday after a hard week is really testing my personal commitment to myself. I set myself the goal and the only person who will hold me accountable is myself.
Oh this one. I once emailed the GM about a situation at work because I didn't feel that it was being handled appropriately. The mistake was not reaching out to my mentors for support to understand if this was the correct approach and support in structuring the communication. My actions resulted in some really challenging communication where both sides felt hurt. You'll be pleased to hear that I immediately reached out for support to manage that situation.
For work related stress, setting boundaries for work and sticking to them is super important. I do this by having a dedicated work space in the house and that is where work stays, when I leave I don't think about work. During the work day, I don't get caught up thinking that every problem is an emergency. I help manage the stress level in the workplace by not reflecting other people's stress back at them. This can be hard, but "fake it till you make it" can be applied here and it really can help calm everyone down which results in less stress.
Identify your mentors and coaches. Be on the lookout for those people who have skills or experience which you can learn from. Don't wait for them to come to you. You don't have to ask them formally to be a mentor or coach, the important part is to identify them and seek them out when you need support.
I wish we were more accepting of failure at our leadership level. We have national and global leaders who are afraid of failure which have created a culture of never back down. I wish our leadership were not afraid of changing opinion and saying that a decision made in the past is no longer the correct decision.
Elle made the cardamom sables recipe that Marie-Laure shared with us in our last newsletter!
Thank you for showing an interest in our newsletter and we hope that you enjoyed the read. Feel free to contact us if you have any feedback, a burning question, or just a recipe that you would like to share.
Until next time, keep learning!
Everyone at Blackmill