Applied Learning

The concept of applied learning is often equated to ‘hands on’ or practical learning experiences.


Applied learning is an approach that emphasises the relevance of what is being learnt to the ‘real world’ outside the classroom, and makes that connection as immediate and transparent as possible. This focus on a real-life application will often require a shift from a traditional focus on discrete curriculum areas, as students focus on learning and applying the skills and knowledge they need to solve a problem, implement a project or participate in the workforce.


Applied learning will involve students and their teachers in partnerships and connections with organisations and individuals outside school. These partnerships provide the necessary out-of-school context for students to demonstrate the relevance of what they have learnt.


Applied learning is concerned with nurturing and working with a student in a holistic manner, which takes into account their personal strengths, interests, goals and previous experiences. Working with the whole person involves valuing skills and knowledge that may not normally be the focus of more traditional school curricula. It also means taking into account differences in preferred learning styles and ways of learning.


Applied learning also acknowledges that part of the transition from school to work is being treated as an adult, and that moving students out of the classroom to learn also means helping them to make a shift to become more independent and responsible for their own learning. This means that applied learning needs to be student centred and applied learning goals and outcomes should be negotiated with students, as well as other stakeholders.

These key concepts underpin the following applied learning principles:

1. Start where learners are at.

2. Utilise student interest to negotiate the curriculum. Make it relevant!

3. Share Knowledge. Learn from everyone!

4. Connect with communities and real life experiences.

5. Build resilience, confidence and self worth – consider the whole person.

6. Integrate learning. Learning should reflect the integration of skills & knowledge that occurs in real life tasks.

7. Everyone learns differently. Value and promote different learning styles.

8. Assess appropriately. Use the assessment method that best ‘fits the learning content and context.

There’s nothing as practical as a good theory

A definition of applied learning as being just ‘hands on’ or practical work was a concern to many educators, who saw the need to offer students access to important fields of abstract knowledge and theory. However, current understandings of applied learning place equal importance on both theory and application, where the link between them is provided by the context. Thus the theoretical understandings and knowledge required to complete a task will be drawn out from the context, which also provides the opportunity to use and apply what has been learnt. context and application theory and skills

Why use an applied learning approach?

Projects and initiatives in Australia, European countries and the USA have shown that applied learning has a number of benefits for students.

These include:

• improved student motivation and commitment

• providing a context for learning the generic skills that are valued in the workplace, e.g. problem solving, working effectively with others and in teams, leadership and personal responsibility

• learning engages students • improved self-esteem and confidence for those involved

• improved transition for students from school to work and/or further education

• a way of catering effectively for students with different preferred learning styles

• providing a meaningful context for learning both theoretical concepts and practical skills.