How can schools embrace experiential learning to advance educational outcomes and engage all their students?
What is experiential learning?
Experiential learning, a pedagogical approach steeped in active engagement and reflection, offers a transformative journey for learners.
It's a philosophy of education that places the learner at the center of the experience, fostering the development of knowledge, skills, and values through direct interaction with the world around them.
This approach, often described as 'learning by doing', encourages learners to immerse themselves in an experience, then reflect on it to gain new insights or skills. It's a dynamic process that transcends traditional lecture-based instruction, allowing learners to connect theory with practice in meaningful ways.
Experiential learning can take many forms, from outdoor adventures and workplace simulations to role-playing exercises and community service projects.
These activities not only provide practical, hands-on experience but also stimulate creativity, enhance decision-making capabilities, and foster critical thinking skills.
According to a study published in the Journal of Experiential Education, students who participate in experiential learning activities demonstrate a 70% increase in knowledge retention compared to traditional learning methods. This statistic underscores the effectiveness of experiential learning in promoting deeper understanding and long-term retention of knowledge.
As Benjamin Franklin famously said, "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." This quote encapsulates the essence of experiential learning, emphasizing the value of active participation in the learning process.
- Experiential learning is a learner-centered approach that combines direct experience with focused reflection.
- This method enhances knowledge retention by 70%, demonstrating its effectiveness compared to traditional learning methods.
- Activities such as outdoor adventures, workplace simulations, and community service projects are integral to experiential learning, fostering practical skills and personal growth.
What are the stages of Kolb's Experiential Learning Model?
In 1974, David Kolb created his Experiential Learning Cycle. Kolb's four-stage Experiential Learning Theory model perceives education as an integrated process. All of these four stages are mutually supportive as David Kolb's Philosophy Of Education demonstrates that effective learning is cyclic involving experience, reflection, critical thinking process and action.
According to David Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory learning is a process in which knowledge is developed through the modification of experience. Kolb's Experiential Learning Model has four stages:
Concrete Experience (CE): To feel
Reflective Observation (RO): To watch
Abstract Conceptualization (AC): To think
Active Experimentation (AE): To do
The above four steps or stages, of learning frequently move in the form of a cycle that starts with a learner having a concrete experience and finishes with their active experimentation on learning.
What does experiential learning looks like in the classroom?
The experiential learning approach is different from other common learning styles as it is a process of learning that's examined in a traditional classroom setting through engaging with learners in group projects, classroom discussions, observing learners in lectures, or other activities.
In the online environment, it is crucial to find out how to engage learners through the entire learning cycle and integrate prompts or activities that will help reveal the learning preferences of students in a course.
It is recommended to use a wide range of learning experiences fulfilling the learning preferences of each student. According to the American philosopher, John Dewey Philosophy Of Education providing students with a wide range of real-life academic learning experiences will improve students' academic learning and allow them to become versatile and more adaptable students.
David A. Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory acknowledges that each academic learning stage is a component of the experiential experience of learning. For example, a teacher's lecture might be an abstract experience, but it is also a concrete experience, if, for instance, a student imitates and admires the educator.
Similarly, a student may demonstrate hard work to establish an abstract model for making sense of an experiential exercise or internship experience. From the students’ perspective, an act of computer programming can be an abstract experience which must be performed in a predetermined period of time or a specific number of days; whereas solitary reflection can be a highly sentimental concrete experience.
The steps of the Experiential Learning Process
Unlike other common learning styles used in a classroom, there are a few Experiential Learning stages that give learners reflective, collaborative and hands-on training with academic learning and allow them to gain new knowledge and new skills.
These Experiential Learning stages allow learners to engage with the teacher, with the content, and with one another as well as apply and self–reflect their academic learning from any other circumstances. Some steps of The Experiential Learning techniques are as follows:
Learners will engage in practical experience or hands-on experience with minds-on academic learning with limited or no assistance from the teacher.
For instance, delivering a presentation, role-playing, creating a model or product, game-playing, and problem-solving. The main factor of experiential education is students' academic learning from experience rather than the quality or quantity of the academic learning experience.
Sharing/Reflecting “What Happened?”
It involves peer group learning as learners will share the outcomes, observations and reactions with their peers. Some aspects of peer group learning involve: peers will share their observations; discuss experiences, and discuss their feelings about the learning process.
The sharing is just like reflecting on what students found out and associating it with previous experiences that can be employed in future situations in the classroom.
Processing/Analyzing “What's Important?”
Learners will communicate, evaluate and reflect upon their learning experience. Explaining and evaluating their concrete learning experience enable learners to connect their learning to future academic experiences.
Learners will talk about the process of their learning experience, and how issues, problems and themes arose as an outcome of the learning process. Learners will share how particular issues or problems were dealt with and how to identify recurring topics.
Generalizing “So What?”
Learners will relate their experience with the examples of real-world problems find common truths or trends in the experience, and recognize principles of “real life” that emerged.
Application “Now What?”
Learners will apply their learning in the experience (and their learning from past practice and experience) to a different or similar situation. Also, learners will discuss how to apply their recently learned process to other scenarios.
Learners will share the usefulness of different issues in dealing with the upcoming circumstances and developing more significant behaviours from students' experiences. The teacher needs to support each student by making him feel an ownership sense for whatever he has learned.
In experiential learning opportunities the teacher offers guidance rather than directing the constructive learning process where learners are inherently enthusiastic about learning.
What is the instructor's Role in Experiential Learning?
In the dominant learning style of experiential education, the teacher provides guidance instead of directing the learning process in which learners are inherently enthusiastic about learning.
The educator may need to attend a professional development training session to be able to effectively perform the facilitator's role. Career Development may allow teachers to receive classroom training to learn several steps critical to experiential learning techniques and strategies. In Experiential Learning Approaches a teacher would:
- accept a less teacher-centred role in the learning process;
- approach the learning experience in a non-dominating and positive way;
- recognize an educational experience in which learners will show interest and personal commitment;
- Clarify the goal of the experiential learning scenario to the learners;
- Share thoughts and feelings through suitable experiences with the students and tell them what he has learned from any specific experience;
- Connect the course learning goals to course activities and guide experiences that will help students to know what they are expected to do.
- Offer meaningful and related source of learning to support students achieve success;
- Clarify instructors' and students’ roles;
- Enable students to experiment and find solutions independently;
- Attend classroom training course to create a balance between the nurturing and educational facets of teaching.
What are the roles of the students in Experiential Learning?
Experiential learning activities provide opportunities for students to show personal involvement in the learning task (learners are actively engaged in learning and have a role in deciding the learning direction). They are not left alone to learn on their own; but the educator supports the learning process and assumes a guide's role. In Experiential Learning Approaches a student would:
- decide to show personal involvement in a concrete learning process;
- demonstrate involvement in problems which are personal, social and practical.
- Have freedom in the classroom as long as they remain engaged in the culminating experience of learning.
- will frequently be involved with challenging situations while discovering.
- will self-assess his success or progress in learning which offers the primary means of student assessment.
Experiential learning programs offer a dominant learning style and constructive learning environment that allow students to remain open to change and understand the learning process. The students will demonstrate less dependence on the teacher and more sharing with their peers, the improvement of skills to research (investigate) and learn from a real-world experience or problem, and the ability to self-examine individual performance.
Incorporating Experiential Learning across Your Curriculum
Incorporating experiential learning in subjects that may not naturally lend themselves to this type of learning can be a creative and engaging process. Here are seven ideas across primary and secondary schools:
- Mathematics: Use real-world scenarios to teach abstract concepts. For instance, students can learn about fractions by baking a cake or planning a budget for a school event.
- Languages: Create immersive language experiences. Students can write and perform a play in the language they're learning or engage in a virtual exchange with students from a country where the language is spoken.
- History: Organize a historical reenactment or create a museum exhibit. This allows students to delve into historical events and figures in a hands-on way.
- Science: Implement citizen science projects. Students can contribute to real scientific research, such as observing wildlife or monitoring local weather patterns.
- Computer Science: Encourage students to develop their own apps or games. This not only teaches coding but also problem-solving and design thinking.
- Literature: Host a book club where students can discuss themes and characters, or write and perform a scene from the book.
- Geography: Use virtual reality to explore different locations. Students can 'visit' the places they're studying, enhancing their understanding of the world.
These methods can help students connect their learning to real-world contexts, enhancing their understanding and retention of the material. They also foster skills such as problem-solving, creativity, and collaboration, which are valuable in any subject area.