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Many courses and degrees now offer both practical and theoretical learning. There are many reasons why both can benefit you singularly, and together, depending on which career field you wish to pursue.

Nursing and health degrees usually promote both, as a nurse needs to be able to do the practical but understand the theory behind it. This does not mean just nursing and health degrees use both types of learning.

Using both practical and theoretical learning means that every type of learner will benefit, whether you are more hands-on or learn better through listening to, and writing and reading what you are meant to.

Either way, combining the two gives you the chance to do both.

Advantages of Practical Learning

Practical learning is usually defined as a task in which students observe and then carry out, build, or manipulate materials or witness a demonstration if they cannot carry it out for safety or other reasons.

This can be an engaging way to learn and can make a change from listening and writing. Using practical learning allows you to get hands-on experience and learn the tools of the trade you are studying a degree in.

Practical learning can allow you to feel confident and competent in the skills and techniques you will need when qualified to do your job effectively. This is even better if you are more of a practical learner, and prefer to do than watch.

Whilst there is nothing wrong with being a theoretical learner, there are some things that you can only truly learn by watching and doing. Practice makes perfect after all.

Practical knowledge can also give you a deeper understanding of a certain technique, via the act of doing and through personal experience. Take science for example, if you wish to be a laboratory assistant, completing laboratory practicals will give you the basic knowledge and understanding to carry out practicals properly and safely.

If something goes wrong during practical learning, you can learn through this experience and take it with you into the workplace. There are some things that you will not experience when sticking to pen and paper, and some things you wouldn’t think would go wrong.

Degrees that require a holistic approach such as nursing mean getting the real-life experience you cannot get in a lecture theatre, and it can prepare you for anything you may face in your future career.

Practical learning is also a great way to build industry connections for when you qualify.

A health information management degree such as the one offered at Purdue University Global offers an internship in a hospital or health care facility, and this can allow you to gain a professional network that may lead to a job once qualified.

Advantages of Theoretical Learning

Theoretical is a lot less about the “how” and a lot more about the “why”. It is all well and good carrying out practical work, but if you do not understand why something is being done, you do not have the right knowledge to carry out the task.

Understanding why means you can give information to someone else if needed, and you know what to do if something goes wrong. It can show you why the technique you thought would work, does not.

Theoretical work is needed to complete essays and exams, and is important in every degree. Self-education in theoretical learning is extremely important to prove you can take control of your learning and have the dedication to your chosen course.

Many degrees will have so much self-learning that must be completed, as they begin to promote students becoming independent to be successful in their careers.

If you are not confident in theoretical learning, you may wish to take extra revision classes and check out these revision tips for any upcoming exams. Although theory cannot teach you your own experiences, it can teach you the experience of others, which is also extremely important to understand why and how specific procedures are carried out.

Many people learn through theory in different ways and it is important you find out your learning style.


What Type of Learner Are You?

The VAK model of learning can help you see how you best learn to get the best grades and advance in your degree. Learners are usually one of three things; Visual, Auditory, or Kinesthetic.

Visual learners take information in better in a picture or graph format and tend to remember information best in a pictorial form.

Auditory learners like to listen and take down information or notes. These types of learners prefer lectures and discussions with lecturers and peers to process and understand knowledge.

Kinesthetic learners tend to learn by experience by doing things practically such as experiments or practicing techniques. If you want to figure out which learner you are, take a test here.

The most important thing is to learn to adapt to keep interested in your degree and to be able to learn something practically but understand the theory behind it too.

If you continuously learn through lectures, you will eventually get fed up and find it harder to concentrate and take information in. Using different learning brings in different parts of your brain and body, therefore keeping you stimulated and enjoying your degree process.

The Benefit of Practical and Theoretical Learning

Using both styles of learning is incredibly important in most degrees. Some degrees should be 50:50 such as very hands-on roles such as a healthcare assistant. Others may be more based on theory and vice versa.

Practically learning can allow you to be able to carry out the tasks needed in the role you have once qualified, and you will be tested on these skills, to be signed off as competent in your role.

Theory can help you understand why practicals are carried out in a certain way so that you can understand what you are doing yourself, explain to others, especially if you are carrying out something practical on a person such as drawing blood, and understand what to do if something goes wrong and the dangers of this.

If you do not understand why you are doing something, eventually something will go wrong and you will not understand how or why.

Theory on its own will not teach you all the skills you need, neither will practical. The best learners can do both to improve their knowledge and skills and refine them to the finest level.

To master almost any field, you will need to do both. The perfect learning experience will have a combination of both, meaning all learners will have a chance at using their skills and learning techniques as well as learning how to adapt accordingly.

As you can see, practical and theoretical learning can both be extremely beneficial in their unique ways. They go hand in hand to give learners the best possible chance of learning and refining a new skill and its theory. Whether you prefer practical or theoretical learning, most courses will offer both to suit your style and needs.

Practical can give you real-life experiences that theory cannot, but theory can prepare you for these real-life experiences and what you should do.


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