Real-world/applied learning

This page focuses on the element ‘real-world/applied learning’. It provides a description of the element, highlights its relevance, and provides examples of real-world/applied learning in the curriculum.


Subject teaching that is rich in real-world examples, context-based learning, research projects and opportunities to see how the subject and its methods are applied in different external contexts.

Relevance for student development, employability and careers

Opportunities for students to apply their learning and see the subject’s methods used in realistic contexts can help illustrate and/or reinforce the relevance and value of the subject beyond the formal learning environment, and can build students’ confidence in applying their learning.

Tips and things to consider

Below you will find some key tips and guidance to consider when incorporating real-world/applied learning into curricular provision.  These draw on various pedagogies that directly incorporate real-world contexts and allow students to apply their learning, such as problem-based learning, context-based learning, and using wicked problems.  The references at the bottom of the page explore these pedagogies in more detail.  

Real-world/applied learning takes many forms, so the tips and guidance below try to be as encompassing as possible.  Combining this element with active teaching methods and work experience can produce some of the strongest forms of real-world/applied learning.

Active teaching methods

Work experience


Examples of practice from the University of Edinburgh

There is diverse practice across the University that can be used to stimulate thinking about what is possible in your setting. 

Below is a link to a range of relevant practice from the Teaching Matters blog.  The examples come from multiple parts of the student experience and relate either partially or substantially to this element.  New articles are automatically added so check back in the future to discover some of the latest practice.

Teaching Matters: relevant articles


Further reading and external perspectives

The references below provide some background on this element as well as some of the external drivers and motivations for including it. 


These references provide a theoretical and empirical argument for incorporating more real-world and applied learning into our teaching.  From discussing the history and development of problem-based and context-based learning approaches, it also presents evidence for how using and being aware of our students’ prior knowledge of a topic can be used actively to foster understanding by using real-world examples.  They also show how these approaches can increase students’ appreciation of how their fields’ methods are used in the real world.