Should we move into an application-based learning environment?
“Wisdom is not what comes from reading great books. When it comes to understanding life, experiential learning is the only worthwhile kind, everything else is hearsay – Joan Erikson”
Experiential learning as the name suggests is to differentiate knowing something from knowing the name of something. One could watch hours of lessons and not learn much but with a few hours of putting them into practice and Bingo! You have constructively learned something. Experiential learning is something like that, learning from experience. No amount of theoretical knowledge can prepare one for the readiness required for a task like jumping straight into and solving a task. This kind of learning is effective because it helps in creating a lasting behavioral change. It is a more immersive, participant-oriented approach to learning. It focuses on the practical application of knowledge in the real-world experience to enhance the learner’s knowledge and develop competence.
Dr D.A. Kolb in his research on experiential learning has given four stages into the experiential learning process viz.
1) Concrete experience,
2) Reflective observation,
3) Abstract conceptualization,
4) Active experimentation.
While concrete experience is the starting point of learning, the next two phases of the cycle represent complex learning processes within the mind of individuals and the last one moves back to the experiential world. The reflective observation describes learners making sense of experience. Abstract conceptualization encompasses what Kolb called ‘figurative representation’ and ‘transformation of that representation’ of experience.
But it is not a new concept entirely as Aristotle had quoted the concept when he said that for the things that we must learn before we do them, we learn by doing them. Experiential learning happens when participants get immersed cognitively, emotionally, behaviorally leading to a change in perspective, understanding, thought and behaviour. The greatest aspect here is the ‘transference’ where the learners apply newly acquired skills to real life situations. Experiential education first immerses the learner in an experience and then encourages reflection about that experience to develop new skills, new attitude, or entirely new ways of thinking.
o Offers means to deepen learners understanding
o Creates real world relevance
o Accelerates learning
o It provides real time coaching and feedback
o It develops reflective practices
o It is critical for developing/updating professional knowledge or skill
o It leads to a decentralized approach and most times they can be disorderly
o Teacher needs more preparation
o Patience and guidance by teacher/instructor
o There is often more than one right answer
o Experiential strategies are often expensive & time consuming
Demanding the learners to simply engage in an experience is not enough, it must be processed through reflection and debriefing to maximize their value. At the end of the day, it is not about the learning. It is about doing something new, something valuable. The challenge here is for practitioners to experiment and to continue to search for new and better ways of encouraging reflection in action.
Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results – John Dewey
Author: Mark John, Benila Jacob