Tip #43: Experiential Training Methods: Hands On Exercise

There are many different experiential training methods that ensure a rich learning experience. Today, we will discuss the Hands On Exercise.

What: A hands on exercise provides practice in a desired skill, technique, or procedure.

When: It can be used at the beginning of a lesson to test the learners’ current skill and ability, or as a way to make a training point.

It is most frequently used at the end of a lesson to evaluate the learners’ ability to apply what has been learned.

Why: It is intended to provide an opportunity for the learners to practice new skills in a safe and monitored environment.

How: Prior to the hands on practice, the trainer should break the procedure down into steps and model each step, explaining the how, why, when, and where for the step. The trainer should also describe the vital “knacks” or tricks involved in the task, as well as emphasizing the safety aspects.

The participants should also demonstrate their understanding of the steps prior to actually performing the hands on activity, to ensure they have been set up for success. This may include talking the trainer, or a volunteer learner, through the operation. A questionnaire, a case study, or a true/false quiz are also ways to make sure the learners really know what to do in the actual hands on exercise.

It is sometimes useful and appropriate to pair a novice with a more skilled learner, so that they can learn together.

The trainer(s) must continually monitor the activity, providing constructive coaching feedback to assist learners who are having a problem with the exercise. This involves asking the learners questions in order to help them discover what they need to do, rather than having the trainer tell them what to do.

If the trainer notices that a number of learners are having similar trouble with the activity, it is necessary to stop the hands on exercise and re-teach that segment to the entire group.

It is important to remember that the purpose of the hands on activity is threefold: (1) for the learner to practice and demonstrate his or her ability to perform the activity; (2) for the trainer to have observable proof of the actual learning that has taken place; and (3) for the learner to gain confidence in his or her ability to perform the activity.

It is helpful to debrief the activity at the end of the practice, to have the learners identify and communicate what they learned, the problems that came up, and how they resolved them.

Length: Depending upon the nature and complexity of the activity, the hands on exercise may take anywhere from 15 minutes to one or two hours.

If the purpose of the training is to teach specific skills, then sufficient time should be scheduled for the learners to practice that skill in a hands on exercise.

Benefits: A hands on exercise can:

  • develop the learners’ skills.
  • test the learners’ ability to use what they have learned.
  • increase the learner’s ability and confidence to use the skill.
  • increase the learners’ probability of using the skill outside the classroom.
  • provide immediate feedback to the learner regarding what s/he knows or needs to know to perform the activity.
  • give the trainer an opportunity to ensure consistent performance of the activity by all of the learners.

Level of Learning: Application

Learning Styles: Aural, visual, print, interactive, haptic, and kinesthetic (depending on the activity).

Next week, we will explore another experiential training method: the role play or simulation.

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