Which is more important knowledge or practice

School and learning: practice is not always better than theory

Practice and theory are not good or bad per se

"Cognitive activation" is the magic word. The idea is that the children work through information by drawing it out in a structured manner, asking questions about it, summarizing content or explaining facts to one another. "The more intensively students deal with a topic and deepen it, the more they get stuck and the better they understand it," explains psychologist Katrin Hille, who conducts research at the Transfer Center for Neuroscience and Learning in Ulm. Practical relevance and theory are not good or bad per se. The implementation is crucial. Even in an internship, a student can learn little if he does not deal with what he is doing. At the same time, theory-heavy lessons can be sustainable if done well.

It also doesn't matter whether the task is "How quickly does a cup of tea cool down in a snow hut?" or "How much pocket money do you save in the summer sale with a 30 percent discount?" says the psychologist: "Just because a task sounds realistic doesn't mean that the students have learned something for their lives while solving them."

Practice projects may not save the PISA results - but CVs do

A finding that the learning researcher derives from the extensive research work of John Hattie, professor at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education in Australia. In it, the educator has summarized more than 800 reviews with a total of 50,000 individual studies. Particularly successful teaching methods are therefore: Metacognitive strategies, i.e. knowledge of one's own learning paths and processes, and reciprocal learning, which means a comprehensive dialogue between students and teachers in which the student is also allowed to ask questions. Also promising: Problem solving in which the students apply previous knowledge, for example to crack a challenging math problem. According to the researchers, all of these strategies ultimately activate the children and young people's in-depth thinking.

However, according to Hattie's review, some procedures that emphasize practical elements and give students room to try out do not do well. Activities outside of the curriculum and timetable such as working groups, scout camps or even voluntary activities therefore have little influence on the school achievements of the children and young people. But teaching methods such as "research-based learning" only show average effects. Experimenting as in the subjects of chemistry, physics or biology helps students know how to conduct a scientific investigation, but it does not improve their understanding of what they are researching.

According to Hattie's analysis, it can sometimes even be harmful if students acquire new knowledge by giving them a puzzle that they lack the prior knowledge to solve. This meant that little or even incorrect information was left with the students.

Nevertheless, the practice-oriented forms of teaching also have clear advantages. Although they do not necessarily promote the specific acquisition of knowledge, they do promote other important properties. "Since I've taken part in the project, I've been trying harder at school," said almost 40 percent of all students who had taken part in practical learning in Brandenburg. According to a project evaluation by the University of Erfurt, they also rated their ability to work in a team and independence higher.