HomeHand-On LearningKey Benefits on Hand-on Learning

Key Benefits on Hand-on Learning

What Is The Best Way For A Student to Learn?

‘Best’ is a subjective term, but certain learning styles offer clear advantages over others, depending on the subject(s) of study. Below are several core learning styles commonly practiced in the classroom from grade school to college:

Visual learning, often called “book” learning, has long been the prevailing method, compelling students to read, remember, and recite the information on a page in reports, tests, and quizzes. This method is most frequently used by teachers during early childhood for school-aged children, where information is traditionally taught using picture books, flashcards, and later, textbooks.

Auditory learning, most easily observed in the lecture formats of certain college courses, relies upon the student to take in an instructor’s information through listening to them live, or via a pre-recorded session, requiring students to take notes accordingly throughout the process. This form of learning may or may not encourage discussion, depending on the preferences of a given professor.

Kinesthetic learning is the third and most intriguing of the learning styles, mingling elements of both visual and auditory learning and compelling full participation from the student. Named after kinesiology, the study of human movement, it’s most commonly referred to as “hands-on” learning. This blended learning technique is one of the key drivers in trade school learning, as it allows students to become comfortable and familiar with the hands-on processes and skills of what will hopefully become their careers, rather than simply watching or reading about the

Why Is Hands-On Learning So Powerful?

Hands-on learning (also known as experiential learning) is the biology lab that teaches a future scientist to be comfortable with dissection; the vehicle shop experience that helps a future mechanic understand the nuances of an engine with not just their eyes and ears but also with actual hands-on training. It gives students the opportunity to self-correct any educational missteps in the moment – with professional guidance at arm’s reach. While notes can be copied down incorrectly and the thread of learning can get buried under a teacher that talks too quickly or a poorly-written textbook, live examples of core concepts are registered in the brain as holistic experiences, giving the student’s mind more “anchors” to tie the memory to.

The sound two materials make when they’re joined together, the scent of a certain solvent, the vivid color of a particular plant leaf – these all become easy-access sensory “bookmarks” for bringing the memory to the surface when it needs to be reviewed. This works for every field of study as well, not just the sciences – that’s why so many condensed “how-to” courses use the format. People simply learn better when they’re allowed to roll up their sleeves and experience the subject matter in a simulation, rather than being distanced from it by a third-hand narrative experience or a dry passage of text.

Transferring Hands-On Learning From Classroom To Workplace

As most recent college graduates learn “the hard way,” life in the real world has very few things in common with life in the classroom. Real-world situations aren’t usually clear-cut or easily solved, a variety of different factors need to be considered and weighed, and sometimes real-world solutions – while they do work – aren’t very tidy. Hands-on learning can help lessen the imbalance between academia and employment by familiarizing students with the environments they’ll be confronted with.

An employer isn’t, for example, likely to hand a worker a document and give them a multiple-choice quiz on it a week later. Far more plausible is a sudden emergency situation that needs to be addressed, with little time to consider options and actions – therein lies the value of the hands-on experience. Such learning exercises can enable a virtual walk-through of actions and reactions, as hypothetical circumstances can be emulated and practiced by imposing time limits. Instructors may also wish to “surprise” students in the form of hands-on exercises, presenting them with unexpected problems and unique materials to work with.

Depending on the length of time spent in a hands-on environment and the complexities of the lessons, students may also be able to list certain experiences on their resume. For example, bullet points such as these could pique the interest of employers that might otherwise pass over a candidate without time “on the job”:

  • Worked with (X) program/machine/tool/material several times a week.
  • Built (X) in conjunction with a team of 5 students.
  • Developed (X) from raw materials in accordance with the (X) method.
  • Solved (X) problem using only (X) materials.

How Does Hands-On Learning Help Students?

Properly structured, hands-on learning encourages students to think outside of the proverbial box, coaxing them to experiment with and explore the problems, tools, and substances they’ll work with regularly in their chosen careers.

From an educator’s perspective, this learning style also offers a welcome respite from the rote repetition of “book learning” or lecturing. No teacher likes to think about it, lest their teaching confidence slip, but the fact of the matter is that adults do have a limited attention span, even when they’re earnestly trying to pay attention. The sound of an instructor’s voice may become a drone after an hour of class, or the words in a passage of text may blur together as eyes become tired or the thought of lunchtime intrudes. Legs and backs may get restless from sitting in place, and thoughts drift as students become a passive – rather than an active – participant in their classroom experience. Gossip and private conversations can become a distraction as students away from the front row seek alternate stimulation during class hours.

Hands-on learning uproots this tired, traditional classroom instruction, allowing students to move, discuss, interact with, and truly engage with in the lesson. Rather than bored teammates simply waiting for their proverbial turn at bat, they are instead immersed in the actual functional points of the task, figuratively getting their hands dirty with the materials, techniques, and concepts being taught. Rather than a chore – listen, take notes, remember – it becomes that magical organic experience and students retain it the same way they would visiting a museum, or trying a new type of food. It’s interesting, and thus the subject matter becomes easier to recall and more enticing to explore.

No restless legs, no wandering thoughts, no dozing off during class – instead, they get to tackle challenges alongside classmates, delving into a “gamification” structure that encourages – or even directly endorses, depending on the instructor’s techniques – competition as each student attempts to be the first to create a result, or otherwise answer a challenge using their materials.