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Practical

Practical

practical is a practical section of a course of study. Trainees learn by actively practicing the skills that they need to develop.

You will need

Essential

Appropriate teaching facilities and equipment, technician support to prepare materials and facilities; health and safety guidelines; access to first aiders, demonstrators with enough knowledge and experience to be useful to the trainees, briefing documentation.

Benefits and limitations

Benefits

  • The trainee is given an opportunity to perform the tasks that he or she will then translate into daily working practice.
  • 'Learning by doing' can be especially beneficial for techniques that require manual dexterity or the use of complex equipment or software.

Limitations

  • Unsuitable for distance learning (with the exception of computer-based practical exercises)
  • care needs to be taken to design practicals that truly reflect what the trainee needs to do in his/her working life, otherwise there’s a risk that the trainee merely learns to ‘go through the motions’ of performing the set practical
  • The practical aspects of developing a particular competency need to be balanced with appropriate theoretical understanding, so it may be advisable to intersperse practical and theoretical course content.

What do I actually do as an instructor/facilitator?

Preparation / before class

Practical sessions involve significant planning in advance. You need to ensure that the facilities will be available, factor in preparation time for any materials or equipment associated with the practical; test your practical exercises rigorously beforehand to ensure that they work and that the time allowed is appropriate, and prepare briefing documentation. Developing extra exercises for fast workers, and a satisfactory endpoint for slow workers, are also sensible precautions.

Implementation / during class

You need to make the goal of the practical clear and provide clear instructions. Depending on the length of the practical, providing ‘stopping points’ along the way, in which the group gets to a certain point and then stops the practical for discussion, can be very helpful. For computer-based practical exercises, interspersing theory and practice is often helpful.

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