There are a few things that I’ve come to believe from my time here at Menlo Innovations. First and foremost, paired programming has exposed me to the phenomenon of cooperation and close human interaction as the primary medium of knowledge transfer.
When I think of traditional schooling, and the approach of teaching of students, I’m alarmed at the outcome. I’ve seen many situations where students sit in lectures, take notes, regurgitate key points but display no depth of understanding about the subject matter.
Many simply see school as a means to a certificate of completion, so they can start a career in which hopefully they’ll learn most of what they need to know on the job. What’s the educational value of spending thousands of dollars on that experience if it yields little understanding?
Pairing is an opportunity for a student and a teacher to be actively engaged in the process of problem solving by using the material they are currently learning together and engaging in human interaction. It is a simple yet profound method of knowledge transfer that meshes with the natural human process of learning that we’ve all been exposed to from birth: human relationships.
I remember being paired as a neophyte myself with someone that was of limited programming experience. From the onset the prospect was terrifying to me. I felt I had no clue of what I was doing. I was aware of the gulf of competence between a programmer and myself and yet there I was giving instruction and guidance to someone else on a job for which we were both responsible.
To my great surprise, it went exceedingly well. Our individual knowledge gaps were bridged in unexpected and very complimentary ways, which facilitated a synergy that propelled us to successful completion.
There were concepts I had barely learned that I had to teach. There were things I hadn’t yet grasped that I was able to learn from my partner. It was an electric experience of learning through doing. I grew from the situation and I’m certain I couldn’t have been successful on my own.
Pairing is learning with the intensity turned up fully. It facilitates creative linking of ideas in order for the pair to harmonize their approach to a problem. It leverages human communication. In my opinion, it’s better than simple education. It’s extreme education.