Hands on Learning in Schools, Why is it Important?

Alex Dalton, Managing Director of woodworking machinery specialists Daltons Wadkin, takes a look at the importance of hands on learning, and why subjects such as Design and Technology are important.

Alex Dalton

One of the best examples to help outline why hands on learning is important is when trying to teach someone to ride a bicycle. Teaching them in a classroom is something you can try, but to actually learn, there isn’t really a substitute to going out and actually riding it.

There is an argument that learning from books or academics is the best way to learn, however it isn’t east to ride a bike from reading a book, no matter the number of books you read about cycling, you may still fall off the first time you try!

So, it is clear that in certain scenarios, that hands on learning can be hugely beneficial. It is often hard to properly understand something you have never actually experienced, which is exactly why hands-on learning is so important for children in education. There is a reason there are now more vocational courses that provide more work based experiences than ever before.

Design and Technology

In Design and Technology (D&T), students combine practical and technological skills with creative thinking to design and make products and systems. This type of hands-on learning allows students to directly understand what is happening, or how to do something. This is a particularly successful way to teach kinaesthetic learners, who learn best by example.

However, many classes such as art, music, woodworking and mechanics are becoming few and far between at the moment it seems, which is a shame. This types of classes provide important avenues for both education and career success, not to mention they help motivate children who love hands-on activities to remain interested in coming to school and learning. They also teach practical problem solving, and introduce students to highly skilled and in demand trades.

Subjects such D&T incorporate many aspects of hands on learning, and give children the opportunity to develop specialist skills, knowledge and understanding of designing and making functional products.

D&T is often a misunderstood and misrepresented subject. For many people, including employers and parents, it is still perceived as the subject they probably studied when they were at school, i.e. metalwork or woodwork. It is vital that pupils develop an understanding of aesthetics and its role in the design of everyday items and architecture, as well as developing communication skills through designing and group work. It is also important that employers and parents alike recognise this.

At the moment, there is a real focus on STEM subject, and in reality, D&T helps to put the T and E into STEM. It does so within school curriculum time, not as part of extra-curricular, enhancement and enrichment activities.

Design Process

The design process is vital to project work and as a method of problem solving. May kids love problem solving, and when it matters to the wider world and they can see the value they add, it can give a sense of purpose. The act of generating, developing, and communicating ideas for products, services, systems and environments can start with a spark in a classroom. This spark can be from both digital and traditional design tools.

Addressing needs though this problem-solving, creativity bounded by constraints and combined with hands-on practical manufacture are the

Fundamental employees and their skills of an industrial economy, all started as children in classrooms. Hands on practical experience help D&T pupils develop confidence they can use for the rest of their life.

Lastly, there is a huge shortage in this country of people to fill jobs in the highly skilled trades. There are many high paying jobs for certified welders for the oil industry, electricians, auto mechanics and so on. These are jobs that are intellectually and quite often, physically challenging, offering great job security.

Long live Design and Technology!

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