I have a passion for learning. People learn in different ways. For some, they learn different things in different ways. At times, when the instructor is unskilled, learning by direction can be a difficult thing for everyone. Other times, an instructor’s skill can exceed the needs of the students who will be lost in the directions.
Read about it I prefer to read about it if the skill I am trying to learn is cognitive. When I was studying journalism, reading was the base of the instructional program. We had to write, a lot, obviously; however the instructors depended on text books and instructional material to lead the class. We not only read about basic grammar and language, we also read about style, voice, and technique, which—in a fashion—is also a form of demonstration as we were able to see these things in the writing as we read.
Lecture I prefer a lecture when there is a basic concept to be experienced. Since my ears are trained to tune out sounds that I hear every day, it becomes increasingly difficult to notice changes in the instructor’s voice and eventually it all becomes a drone of tuned out noises. Lectures are good for perceptual skills as in learning to meditate.
Demonstration I prefer a demonstration if the skill I am learning is a motor skill. In high school, I had a gymnastic instructor that attempted to teach us a move on the uneven bars by lecture alone. When she finished speaking she asked who wanted to go first. We looked at each other questioningly. None of us had a clue what she was talking about. She wanted us to “turn around” on the bar. When we questioned the term “turn around” she changed the term to “spin.” No help. Someone suggested she wanted us to spin like in an axel and the student was berated for using a skating term. In the end, the instructor had to demonstrate her meaning.
Hands-on I prefer hands on if the skill is a motor skill that I will be repeating. At the workplace, we had to learn to thread a new machine with labels. The machine operator demonstrated the process, but each of us had to try it at least once in order to get the feel for the tension required on the various parts. Hands on usually follows all other types of instruction. After you read, listen, or see how something is to be done, you need to put your hands, or mind, to it as a form of test of competence. The only time I have learned something by hands-on alone is when I am trying to learn without any other form of instruction. Trial and error: it does work sometimes.
People learn in different ways. Some ways are better for a skill that others; in most skills more than one learning technique will be needed to master a skill. Which technique I prefer depends on the skill I am learning.