5 Ways to Empower Students with Hands-On Learning

As educators we strive to provide students with hands-on learning opportunities as much as we can. What we too often forget is the emotional impact of learning by doing.

Hands-on learning can be a great way to empower students, and it does this in a variety of ways.

1. Hands-on develops character

By incorporating lessons that put students in charge of their own educational experiences, we challenge and deepen the strength of their character education. Hands-on learning can do more than just improve memory of topics, it’s the art of stretching lessons beyond standard content and creating lasting, life-long, character-developing experiences that impact students’ views of the world and of themselves.

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2. Hands on teaches 21st-century skills

Hands-on learning helps develop the skills students need to understand their impact on a changing world and how to live in it. The character qualities most often cited as fundamental to creating lifelong learning and development of 21st-century skills are curiosity, initiative, persistence/grit, adaptability, leadership, and cultural awareness. These skills are central to living in a changing world, and empower students by making them feel capable of addressing life’s challenges.

3. Hands-on teaches a growth mindset

A growth mindset helps students overcome obstacles. As educators we cannot lose sight that the purpose of school for children is not to show off what they know, but to embolden their willingness to embrace new challenges and new skills, as well as learn new content. Continually reinforcing character education to empower our students is truly at the heart of hands-on learning. Hands-on involves students in creativity, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration. Thus, inherent within this teaching orientation is the promotion of a growth mindset in students, which is a core goal for thriving in the 21st century.

4. Hands-on promotes collaboration skills

Collaborative problem-solving is at the heart of the skills students will need to thrive in our socially integrated new century. Through a deeper understanding of themselves, students will be ever more capable of respectfully connecting with others.

5. Hands-on teaches students to confront real-world problems

Hands-on learning experiences require students to interact with other students to solve real-world problems. Through this process, students organically learn how they and others problem solve. When done well, the beautiful outcome of this type of teaching is that students are exposed to real-world challenges that require them to reflect and adapt through collaborative problem-solving.

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Ken Klieman is the author of Building an Empathy-Based Classroom, and has taught over 5,500 students and trained over 3,000 teachers. Ken has been awarded both California Teacher of the Year and Comcast All-Star Teacher of the Year. His work as a leading teacher trainer for the NEA and CTA and keynote speaker have solidified his pedagogical approach focusing on community building through performance-based, student-inquiry projects. 

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