adapted from IGNITE YOUR MIND with thanks
The History of Hands-on Learning
Think back to when you were in school – you might’ve taken classes such as home-economics, sewing, or even auto-mechanics. Or maybe your schedule featured music, painting or photography. Now look at the schedule of a child today—music is an extra curricular, sewing is no longer offered, and auto-mechanics classes are found in trade schools. Students now complete handouts and sit through lectures, taking endless notes and reading through expensive textbooks. The hands-on experience that was once thought of as key to building a well rounded student has now disappeared from the classroom.
Hands-on Learning isn’t just for sewing, cooking or painting; it can be a part of any subject. It’s the common name for Experiential Learning, which is the philosophical term behind the idea of immersing oneself in a subject in order to learn. Experiential Learning has been around since 350 BCE, when Aristotle wrote, “for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them”. This idea ultimately became popular in the early 1950’s and thanks to the backing of famous psychologists such as Jean Piaget, Kurt Lewin and John Dewey, Experiential Learning quickly became a staple in American education.
Hands-on Learning Today
Fast forward to the early 2000’s, and increasing pressure for drastic improvements on national test scores led to a nationwide shift in education. Schools were faced with the challenge of improving test scores while also staying under budget. They were ultimately forced to cut programs like sewing and home economics, and focus their attention on creating a more lecture based curriculum geared towards improving test scores and decreasing spending. Later, after STEM classes were deemed more desirable and ultimately affordable, arts programs, once part of schools’ core class offerings, were cut. Despite the increase in the number of STEM classes offered in American schools, there has still been a steady decline in the amount of time a student spends interacting with his or her subjects.
Valuable Asset to Classrooms
Being hands-on is especially important in the classroom because it allows students to engage in kinesthetic learning. Studies have shown that kinesthetic learning, where a student carries out physical activities rather than listening to a lecture, is the most popular type of learning with students – ‘doing’ helps them to gain a better understanding of the material. It allows students to experiment with trial and error, learn from their mistakes, and understand the potential gaps between theory and practice. And most important, it provides educators with a unique opportunity to enrich the minds of their students in new and engaging ways.
Hands on learning in surgery
The literature suggests that surgical expertise is reached through practice; surgical experts are made, not born. A deeper understanding of the nature of expert performance and its development will ensure that surgical education training programmes are of the highest possible quality. Surgical educators should aim to develop an expertise-based approach, with expert performance as the benchmark. Read more here.