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Studious Beginners

You can find this article and more on Launch School’s Medium publication.

For the past few years, our front page copy at Launch School has carried the words of our school’s motto:

The Slow Path for Serious Beginners to a Career in Software Development

In that simple sentence lies the core of what we’re about at Launch school, and each word is chosen carefully to capture our values and our pedagogy. Within that sentence several more words are highlighted: Slow Path, Serious Beginners and Career. These words reflect how we teach, who our students are, and what we’re trying to accomplish.

Today, we’re going to make a slight change to this sentence. It’s not a result of a change in direction in the school, but rather, a result of better understanding our students. We’re changing Serious to Studious, so the entire sentence will now read:

The Slow Path for Studious Beginners to a Career in Software Development

What we’ve found over the past 5 years of teaching people to program is that there are many different types of beginners[1]. Within that group many consider themselves serious learners. We often hear people say “I’ve read 3 books” or “I’ve been learning to code for 2 years” as a way to convey this seriousness. However, we’ve found that previous programming experience and expressions of seriousness don’t necessarily correlate with success at Launch School.

Over the years, we’ve noticed a pattern in our most successful students, and it came down to their ability to study. This may seem obvious in hindsight; of course those with better study habits will do better. But looking at people’s seriousness is conflating one’s desire to learn with commitment to studying, which are two related but different things. The key to learning deeply and to studying to mastery is the latter. This is why we’re replacing “Serious” with “Studious”.

So what if you have a desire to learn, but perhaps it’s been a while since you’ve been in school?

You can address this head-on, before starting to learn programming, by first learning how to learn. In fact, there’s a free Coursera course on that exact topic. We recommend this course to everyone who has been out of school for a while or for those who never got an opportunity to pick up good study habits in traditional education. This course is highly recommended along with the accompanying book, A Mind for Numbers [2].

You can also take advantage of our Mastery-based Learning pedagogy at Launch School to figure out a personal learning system that works with your schedule and with your learning style. We’ve seen may people succeed in a mastery-based learning environment where traditional education previously failed. In mastery-based learning, consistency, grit, and a desire to improve one’s study habits is critical.

It doesn’t matter whether you are already a studious student or not one yet, the goal of Launch School is to launch a meaningful career in software development, which mandates an ability to learn deeply. That’s why our front page headline is now “The Slow Path for Studious Beginners to a Career in Software Development”.

[1] We have a lot more to say on this topic and will do so in another blog post.
[2] Barbara Oakley, the creator of both the course and book, wrote another book recently called Mindshift.