I have been writing about learning styles for the past couple of weeks and mainly been blabbing on about how important I think it is to get students engaged and actively involved with their learning. So it made sense to me to now move onto talking about an active approach to learning in general!
Hands-on learning is a learning style which requires the student to carry out a physical activity and try and get learning by themselves. Rather than just sitting in a hall listening to a lecturer or watching a demonstration, hands-on learning gets the students up and physically involved.
Researchers have found that introducing hands-on techniques into the classroom is good for students (Sivan et al., 2000). Manuel (2002) found that students who had a preference for a kinesthetic learning style (a type of Hands-on method) would show signs of improved academic performances when they were taught in this way. Manuel believes that students performed well because of the positive attitude towards the kinesthetic learning style. Poudel et al., (2005) suggests that students will perform well when involved in hands-on activities because this approach is more interesting than a teacher lecturing them. Due to this enhanced interest, they believe that students will be more motivated to learn and to think in a more critical way.
Some hands-on methods that education practices have introduced are Group projects, working in a group means students have to be active in terms of sharing their ideas, learning from others, enhancing their argumentative skills etc., Springer, Stanna and Donovan (1998) suggest that group projects are particularly effective if working in pairs. They suggest that working in pairs promotes greater student achievement, increases retention in courses, and promotes favourable attitudes toward the course material. Also, Shakarian (1995) suggest that working in pairs is better than big groups because it makes it pretty much impossible for students to avoid participating (check out more I’ve written about social loafing). Jigsaw Group Projects have also been described as an effective active-learning technique (Clarke, 1994), this is where students are bunged into a group and have to explore a particular topic, each member has their own sub-topic which they research, then once they have all worked on their sub-topic they “fix” it all together and discuss. This works well because all the students have to research their own area and then deliver the information to other members, research shows that by explaining information to others will increase one’s own understanding (Peterson & Janicki, 1979).Online journals can be used for an active style of learning, this is an effective tool for motivating students to apply course concepts to their own life experiences and to explore course content in more depth, also by uploading journals online encourages public debate where others can discuss with them (Glogoff, 2005). Faust and Paulson (1998) suggest that role playing also works well for students because this active technique allows them to gain a better understanding of the theories and concepts that are being taught in class. Playing Games is another one (for adults too – not just kids lol) Groves, Warren and Witscher (1996) suggest that playing games can dramatize aspects of reality and information that can’t be transmitted by ordinary methods of delivering knowledge (lectures)! Faust and Paulson (1998) suggests that games such as puzzles are a highly effective way to review material before moving onto the next stage of the assignment.
However, people may criticize some of these techniques!! Faculties argue that these hands-on methods do not cover enough information, but Faust and Paulson (1998) controversially say that students are still learning just as much this way, basically they say that a boring approach may cover more material, but that doesn’t mean students will retain it all! Because students are less likely to retain all the information if they are bored! Also, some may say that not all students want to get actively involved and may have another learning style preference, due to this Felder (1993) suggests that it is probably best to use these hands-on techniques as an additional tool of learning; so using these techniques along with the standard lecture should be an effective method for all students in the class. Another thing Felder mentions is that by combining these methods, that it should hopefully prepare students for the workplace!
To conclude, its considered that many students have a preference towards hands-on learning activities, and it is suggested that this is because it is an interesting learning style! There are many ways to introduce hands-on activities into the classroom, which have been found successful for both children and adults in education. Some of these include; group work, journals, games and role playing – and that’s just to name a few, there are many many many ways to involve hands-on learning into education, but these are some of the ones that stood out to me!! Despite there being some negative issues surrounding this learning style; research shows that there are solutions and also that hands-on activites may be best to be used as an additional tool of learning.
Clarke, J. (1994). Pieces of the puzzle: The jigsaw method. In S. Sharan (Ed.), Handbook of cooperative learning methods (pp. 34-50). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Faust, J. L., & Paulson, D. R. (1998). Active learning in the college classroom.Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 9(2), 3-24.
Glogoff, S. (2005). Instructional blogging: Promoting interactivity, student-centered learning, and peer input. Innovate. Journal of Online Education, 1(5).
Groves, J. M., Warren, C., & Witscher, J. (1996). Reversal of fortune: A simulation game for teaching inequality in the classroom. Teaching Sociology, 24, 364-371.
Manuel, K. (2002), Teaching Information Literacy to Generation Y, Hawthorn Press, New York, NY, .
Paulson, D. R. (1999). Active learning and cooperative learning in the organic chemistry lecture class. The Journal of Chemical Education, 76, 1136-1140.
Poudel, D. D., Vincent, L. M., Anzalone, C., Huner, J., Wollard, D., Clement, T., … & Blakewood, G. (2005). Hands-on activities and challenge tests in agricultural and environmental education. The Journal of Environmental Education, 36(4), 10-22.
Shakarian, D. C. (1995). Beyond lecture: Active-learning strategies that
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Sivan, A., Leung, R. W., Woon, C. C., & Kember, D. (2000). An implementation of active learning and its effect on the quality of student learning. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 37(4), 381-389.
Springer, L., Stanne, M. E., &. Donovan, S. S. (1998). Effects of small-group learning on undergraduates in science, mathematics, engineering and technology. Madison, WI: National Institute for Science Education.