The traditional idea of a day at school includes children spending a lot of time at their desks and in classrooms, but modern education typically includes a lot more hands-on experiences for students. Students learn in a variety of ways, and often they learn by combining different styles and educational experiences.
One of the most important aspects of school life for the contemporary student is experiential learning, a process that allows them to combine theoretical knowledge with actual practice. At SFXC, we are passionate about giving students every avenue to finding success and developing their interests and passions.
Experiential learning — sometimes referred to as practical learning or hands-on education — is a process where students take theory they have learned and are able to actively try it out in relevant scenarios and situations. Students are able to engage in their work and take more control by making decisions and being more accountable for an actual outcome, rather than an imagined concept. This accountability lends weight to the learning and gives it a new level of value — one which many students may be more inclined to appreciate.
In addition to the actual learning experience of doing things, students greatly benefit from the post-experience process of reflecting. Students are invited to consider what happened during their practice, what went well and what went wrong, and how they could have taken different steps to create better outcomes. Reflection is critical to effective learning, and in the case of practical skill development, students are better able to connect their reflections to real experience and understand the importance of their decisions.
Significant research has gone into the value of giving students hands-on experiences and practical skills as part of their education. This type of learning delivery has great benefits for students, giving them a more well-rounded education that helps them consolidate their knowledge and relate it to more concrete experiences. Some of these experiential learning benefits include:
Autonomy: Instead of a model where teachers speak and students listen, experiential learning gives some autonomy and responsibility to the students, allowing them to choose how they act. This in turn helps them to recognise the value of their decision making as they see what outcomes their choices lead to.
Experiential learning is still closely tied to classroom theory learning. Students are supported through learning the necessary concepts and information that they are expected to take into practical experience. Our teachers also ensure that any practical learning experiences are carefully chosen and planned to create the highest learning potential, allowing students to deepen skills and show autonomy without being put at risk.
However, we remain committed to giving our students the opportunity to apply practical knowledge in real situations. Our Junior and Senior campuses offer a variety of facilities and programs that work to promote a hands on approach to learning, building from the earlier years into the final years to help students leave school confident and ready to use their skills.
At the Junior level, students are introduced to specialist technology and design streams like electronics, wood, plastic and metal work, and robotics. Our labs provide the necessary facilities which, in combination with patient and safe theory teaching, allow students to work with their hands and create something new out of a variety of materials.
At Beaconsfield, we’re also in the process of building a state-of-the-art technology wing, which will house incredible facilities for students to continue growing their skills in each of these areas. As they get older, students are able to work with more autonomy and make more complex projects, reflecting their growth in skills and their commitment to learning technical processes.
Each of our campuses features a purpose-built kitchen designed to match commercial standards. Students are introduced to food technology and important cooking processes in the junior years, and taught how to conduct themselves safely with different kitchen equipment and appliances.
This is then expanded upon at our Senior campus, with interested students able to make use of a commercial kitchen as well as a bar area. VET Hospitality students are given the chance to prepare, cook and serve meals at special events, as well as regularly operate a small cafe for others on campus. These students work very autonomously, learning the skills required to manage cleanliness, ensure food safety and deliver quality meals, as well as punctuality and organisation.
No one can learn how to play piano just by hearing someone explain it — it’s something that must be practised. Our instrumental lesson rooms make sure students have the necessary space to become proficient musicians, while our music performance program allows them to truly experiment with sound.
The program becomes even more diverse at the Senior level, with Beaconsfield also home to recording booths and a recording studio for our VET Multimedia students. The booth is operated by students to create music and record compositions under the guidance of experienced staff. Students’ passions are cultivated and given the space to be explored, with practice helping them develop their technical and musical abilities.
Our experiential learning programs are designed to help students build skills and knowledge that will serve them in the real world, not just to pass a test. We firmly believe that this is an important measure of success and encourage students to embrace practical work and use it as a tool to make education feel more real. Our curriculum gives every student a pathway to succeed at school and beyond.