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Experiential Learning, Enhances Educational outcomes

People learn from the experiences that they have gained which is essential for a living. It is said that experience is the best teacher and it seems education is incomplete without adopting experience-based learning.

For several decades, we’ve been practising an age-old teaching method where students remain passive listeners and teachers play an active role in the classroom. Perhaps, this remains a big hurdle for students to bring a shift in their attitude towards learning. Apparent from the name itself, experiential learning is nothing but involves learning through gaining experience. Basically, this theory was proposed by a psychologist named David Kolb who was influenced by John Dewey, Kurt Lewin and Jean Piaget. This type of education states that obtaining knowledge from experience is more important than acquiring from existing books. In the words of Kolb, it can be defined as ‘the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience’. Knowledge is a combination of collecting and converting the experience."

Apparently, experiential learning varies from cognitive and behavioural theories. Cognitive theory focuses on the role of a person’s intellectual faculty whereas behavioural theories give emphasis on observable behaviours which is also essential for learning. Thus, we can say that experiential learning integrates all the experiences including cognition, emotions and other environmental factors in the process of learning.

Construction of Experiential Theory

Kolb has described two different ways of collecting experience and these are: Concrete Experience and Abstract Conceptualization. He has also identified two ways of experience: Reflective Observation and Active Experimentation. The concrete experiences serve as a basis for reflection from which we assimilate information and create abstract concepts. These abstract things help us in developing new theories which we further use for experimentation. In such type of learning, people are supposed to choose learning mode based upon the particular situation. Let’s take the example of driving a car. Some people prefer to go by reflective model which is observing other people as they drive. Others adopt abstract model by reading and analysing a driving instruction book. There are people who jump right into the car and decide to learn by practicing it. How do we decide which model suits best for us? It is purely based on a person’s interest and necessary skill. Those who are ‘observers’ prefer reflective and those who are ‘doers’ prefer active experimentation.

Experiential learning has made its way into the education as well and it is regarded as one of the best learning modes. However, at the same time it has been highly criticized for certain reasons.

Reasons for its popularity in education field:

  1. There is a co-relation between the students learning style and the subject they learn. This tend to make them well-aligned with the subject and be committed to study./p>

  1. A great way to explore their strengths and weakness

  1. It also addresses how the students can play to their own strengths and focus working on weaker areas.

Reasons for the Backlash from the Critics

  1. The learning style of a student might differ sometimes according to the given task which sometimes make it difficult for the teacher to evaluate a student’s overall assessment

  2. Critics are of the opinion that this theory is narrowly focussed and restrictive.

The traditional method differs from experiential method in different ways. The former is teacher-oriented and the latter is student oriented. Traditional aims to offer skill by transferring information but experiential learning is completely relied on experience. Finally, in traditional method there need a high degree of facilitation but in the other method only minimal assistance of the teacher is required.

Experiential Activities for Students

  1. The Pro and Con Grid : It allows kids to have a discussion or debate about a particular lesson. Students can be divided into groups where one group would focus on the pros and the other would emphasize on cons of the given subject. This allows student to look at a topic from different angles.

  1. Student-Generated Test Question Activity : After completing a lesson ask students to prepare between three to five questions with answers. After that split the students into pairs and have them question each other within an allotted period. Finally, share the results in the class.

  1. The Fishbowl Activity: This is about making students openly discuss about a certain topic in the class.

  1. Mnemonic Activity : A mnemonic can be letters, ideas or sentences which helps students in associating with concepts to memorize easily. Ask students to create mnemonics by themselves and get them perform it in the class.

The pedagogical ways of learning are not limiting itself to explore different arenas to deepen, widen and strengthen student’s inquisitiveness.

Vinod Kakumanu

Vinod Kakumanu

Founder & Consultant - School Serv

Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.

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