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Why Hands-on Learning is Important in STEM Education

Teachers are encouraged to employ a hands-on approach to teach STEM

· Education

Experiential learning commonly known as hands-on learning is believed to be the most effective method of learning things - learning by doing.

Aristotle the famous philosopher quoted that “for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them” and this applies in areas of study that require activities such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Hands-on learning is learning by doing. It involves the process of teaching students how to observe things around them and ask questions. In hands-on learning, students gain knowledge from performing activities with their hands rather than receiving information from books or lectures.

The following are the reasons why the hands-on learning style is important for students.

Encourages experimentation

As opposed to the textbook style of learning, hands-on learning encourages students to learn by doing. In doing so, they make mistakes, they fail. In a hands-on, stress-free environment, students are able to try again and learn from their mistakes. This trial by error approach of learning helps them to gain a better understanding of concepts and foster the reality that mistakes and failures are all part of the learning process.

Better retention

Information is easier to remember when students are actively engaged in the learning process. With hands-on, practical training, students grasp concepts much faster than if they read or just listen.

In a research conducted by PEN, it was observed that STEM students who engaged in hands-on learning improved significantly in their test scores more than students who engaged in the mundane listening and reading style of learning. By moving things around and engaging in activities such as movement, listening and talking, students activate multiple areas of the brain. The more parts of their brain they use, the more likely they are to retain information.

Hands-on creative activities help students to focus and retain knowledge.

Problem-solving and knowledge application

Hands-on training enhances students' ability to think critically and find creative solutions to problems. During hands-on learning activities, students can work in groups to learn team and problem-solving skills. By doing this, they are actively engaged in what they are learning about and working together and thinking creatively to solve the task they have been given. Besides, when students practice what they have learned and test out theories they have been exposed to, they strengthen their knowledge and skills in those areas. Subsequently, they are able to apply this knowledge to other areas of their lives.

To succeed in life, students have to be able to apply what they have learned to a variety of scenarios. Hands-on learning teaches them to model the concepts they've learned to various iterations of a problem or issue.

Engaged students

The teaching methods in some schools tend to focus on cramming facts (chew and pour) rather than establishing a social, active learning environment. As a result, students are prone to engage in mindless learning. It is necessary to introduce students to a hands-on, inquiry-based style of learning as this enhances their creativity and perception. Students are more focused and engaged when they are working on hands-on projects. The best way to engage students is by having them move their hands.

Growth mindset

Hands-on training teaches students to evolve and improve on their capacities to match the evolving world around them. In a world that is rapidly evolving, students who have this ability to evolve are in an advantaged position over those who are reluctant to change. A hands-on approach is a great way to develop a growth mindset.

Do you know other ways that hands-on learning can be of importance to students? Kindly share with us in the comment section.

Author: Nancy Ewurum is the Communications and Marketing Officer at PEN

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