What is Applied Learning?

The term “Applied Learning” can mean different things to different people. From an educator’s perspective, “Applied Learning” refers to learning to apply thinking skills and learning to learn. At NHSAL, Applied Learning is exercised through experiential, hands-on, active learning which integrates deep academic and rigorous content in problems and projects which connect school and life.

Applied Learning projects allow students more control over their own activities (choosing their theme, topic, resources and activities); and provide them with an opportunity to explore their own interests and abilities. Applied Learning gives students a reason to learn. Thriving in courses where concepts are presented in close proximity to their practical use, students learn more effectively. Adolescents in particular are more motivated when engaged in activities that have clear transferability to the real world – Applied Learning gives them that critical context.  This is far more motivating for learners of any age than the traditional approach toward academics, which tends to be more abstract.

Applied Learning promotes cooperative learning and teaming, allowing students to use their own skills in a variety of ways as they take on different roles within their groups; as well as exploring new social relationships with peers. Applied Learning projects allows students to work to their own strengths as they choose the roles they will play in preparing project materials and reporting on project results, leading the team in some areas, and participating as a contributing team member in others.

Applied Learning is active, involving students in physical activities, satisfying their need to move, developing physical skills and using their bodies. Lab activities (industrial arts, home economics, business, entrepreneurship, computer science) allows students to develop both physical/gross motor as well as fine motor skills, as they learn to use hand tools, manipulative and other implements while applying academic principles. “The mind learns what the body does,” approaching learning in a multi-sensory manner compliments all learning styles, visual, auditory, as well as kinesthetic.

Applied Learning is invaluable to the middle school student because it supports their cognitive, motivational, social and physical needs. Applied Learning helps students construct and extend knowledge through interactions with new types of information, tools and materials – that they have a vested interest in; and allows for instruction in a variety of venues through different types of interactions with adults and peers. Students learn to apply acquired knowledge to the way these concepts are used in life, thereby making important connections between what is learned in school and their application in life.

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