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Learning By Doing: How We Support Students with Hands on Learning

Thursday 16th March 2023

Every student is able to learn, but any good teacher will be able to tell you: students don’t all learn the same way. While the capacity is there, students will respond to different methods of teaching and studying to gain information and skills. Helping students learn in these unique ways can not only produce better results at school, but lead to lifelong confidence and achievement.

While we make sure that our campuses are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities inside the classroom, we’re also committed to providing the best facilities beyond the traditional room too, including the two Hands on Learning areas at our junior campuses.

Students and learning styles

In all the learning opportunities that occur in the life of our college we hope to prioritise our students above all else, understanding what they need and will respond to — their learning styles. Broadly, learning styles are frameworks around how someone uses their various senses to perceive, learn, and retain information. Some styles prioritise physical touch, while others are built more around reading, listening or problem-solving. 

However, while paying attention to learning styles can be a useful practice for teachers, parents and students, it’s also important to understand that students may not neatly fit into just one style alone. Their most effective learning may come from combining a variety of styles, each new style consolidating their knowledge and understanding. Our College is committed to giving all students the opportunity to learn in a way that benefits them, providing opportunities both in and out of the classroom to use their skills in different ways.

What is Hands on Learning?

Hands on Learning is an education adjustment program designed to support the social and emotional development of young people by catering to the different ways they learn and engage with school work. The program was established in 1999 and has been delivered in partnership with Save the Children since 2007.

Hands on Learning is designed for children who learn important practical and cognitive skills through physical work and practice. In our Hands on Learning spaces, students work in collaborative groups under the supervision of two artisan teachers. Hands on skills are prioritised, with this engaging students in a different way than the traditional classroom setting, and often opening them up to learning in a positive way.

A day in HoL

To maximise the capacity for students to learn and be attended to by the specialist staff, HoL groups are limited to 10 students. Once a week, each group will spend a full day working practically on meaningful school and community projects, such as building shelves and tables, landscaping gardens, and fixing community spaces.


Each day begins with a Focus Plan, laid out by the leaders to clearly structure the expectations of the day, as well as the practical learning opportunities students will have. Throughout the day, students will be encouraged to spend time reflecting on the practical lesson and their own development, including how they have improved soft skills such as communication, problem solving and critical thinking. This reflective practice helps students become more active and receptive to the learning process, which in turn engages them more and helps put them on the path towards better personal outcomes.


Each of our junior campuses is equipped with a purpose-built Hands on Learning facility that sits away from the main campus buildings. These centres help students fully engage with the practical work they are doing, avoiding distractions from other classrooms and happenings. Students are able and encouraged to invest completely in the Hands on Learning program. 

Being away from the main school buildings also allows each group of HoL students to develop close bonds and relationships, building character and interpersonal skills. The change in surroundings leads to an important mental break for many students, allowing them an opportunity to refresh their minds and rebuild their level of educational engagement. 

In these facilities, students may work with hand tools, paintbrushes, maintenance equipment or gardening implements to fix, improve or build important school equipment and spaces. All activities are supervised closely by trained staff, and students are not put at risk of hazards or injury.

Learn your way

Offering Hands on Learning alongside our other programs and curricula ensures that every student enrolled at St Francis Xavier College has a pathway that can help them achieve positive learning and growth. Not all students learn in the same way, and we are committed to helping each child engage fully, learn effectively and find belonging. 

If you are interested in finding out more about Hands on Learning, or believe your child may benefit from a more hands on experience at school, contact leadership or wellbeing staff at our two junior campuses.