Lesson Learned: Docendo Discimus

I admit, even with four years of Latin in high school (and we don’t need to talk about how long ago that was), before today, I couldn’t tell you what “docendo discimus” meant. And now it's a phrase I can't forget. I came across it as I was searching for inspiration for this week’s blog. I found it in a 2002 article, Learners as Trainers and SMEs, by performance training consultant Thiagi. Eureka!

So what is docendo discimus you ask? Why am I so excited? It very simply translates as "teach in order to learn". Thiagi in 2002 – and the ancient Romans 2002 years before – were talking about the Bentley Communities! Engagement with a community – whether asking a question, responding to a forum post, commenting in a blog, reading a thread, etc. is a modern-day manifestation of “teach in order to learn”.

Thiagi writes, “Immense amounts of research data reveal that when learners teach others, the overall effectiveness of the training activity increases significantly. Apparently, fellow-learners speak a common language and relate to each other better. As a result, learners learn more effectively from their peers than from expert trainers.” I’m quoting here … I am certainly not suggesting that Bentley’s technical support and product experts should consider early retirement; what I am saying is that the Bentley Communities are not simply communities of users but communities of learners and teachers.

Show of hands – who thinks of him/herself as “teaching” in the Communities? You probably think in terms like “sharing” or “contributing” or even more literally “asking” or “responding”. Choose whatever word you like – fundamentally your participation is the simultaneous acts of teaching and learning.

When you ask a question you enable another to teach and you empower others to learn. When you respond and share your knowledge you not only teach but you invite more learning as well. An outcome so subtle yet so powerful!

Thiagi continues, “And the more often a learner teaches others, the more comprehensive and stronger his or her mastery of the skill and knowledge becomes”. To all the learners and teachers out there in the Bentley Communities, in the classrooms, at your desk, or wherever you may be– thank you. You are the real inspiration.


Reference: Learners as Trainers and SMEs by Sivasailam Thiagarajan, Ph.D., June 14, 2002.