You got it! That is really the best way of learning your equipment and learning about flavors (what tastes like what). Try doing a few SMaSH beers.(single malt,single hop) That REALLY helped me out when I started writing recipes. It will really give you an idea of how well you are brewing as it there are no where to hide brewing flaws, but by the same token it will also give you the best idea of how each ingredient tastes. In the SMaSH setting the yeast,malt,hops, and (even to a degree) water chemestry can be taste tested.
I've been entertaining the idea of doing a few SMaSH beers myself for the same reason as the OP, looking to educate myself on ingredient flavors. But based on statements within this thread, once you add an ingredient to a recipe with other ingredients will the benefit of testing/tasting a SMaSH beer be lost?
no. It is true that a finished beer doesn't taste like a chewed grain, or am unboiled wort or a unfermented wort but there is correlation. If you know what Floor malted marris otter and EKG hops taste like in a SMaSH and you know what a simple US 2 row and crystal 60 beer tastes like, given experience, you will be able to imagine what a Marris Otter + crystal 60 beer or a US 2 row, crystal 60 and EKG beer will taste like. You know what vanilla tastes like and you know what a big beefy zinfendel tastes like and what a ripe anjou pear tastes like. If you add the vanilla to the wine and poach the pears in in. it won't taste like the zinfendel did, or the vanilla or the pear. It will taste like all three plus the what the heat and time of cooking as done to meld those flavours. (this recipe is delicious by the way, serve with a little splash of heavy cream or a dollop of creme fresh)