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Published : February 22, 2023

Last Updated: February 22, 2023

Every child deserves a chance to learn and evolve. More importantly, we should allow them to learn in a way and pace they find interesting and easy to consume. Nurturing their unique skills and abilities requires tools and modern technology beyond the traditional blackboard method of teaching and learning.

Traditional models of teaching and learning emphasize rote memorization. On the other hand, experiential learning underlines learning by doing and is a rapidly evolving alternative to conventional learning methods. 

The blog presents the experiential learning meaning, its principles, benefits, activities involved, and student roles. 

What Is Experiential Learning?

What Is Experiential Learning?

Experiential learning takes a holistic approach to impart education and envisions learning as an outcome of worldly experiences. Experiential learning principles are based on the deep philosophical thought that “Children learn the best from experiences .”The experiences are, in turn, shaped by worldly attributes that are emotional and environmental. It is also called experimental learning.

Experiential learning has a broader and more holistic vision when compared to traditional methods. It offers a deep and concrete learning experience for children. Traditional approaches focus more on exams and grades. Predominantly, such methods work at the surface level while encouraging students to memorize the concepts as they prepare for the exam and reproduce the information to score high among their peers. `

Experiential learning is deeper, and it follows a combination of different learning methods that span from reading and exploring to experimenting, debating, discussing, role-playing, etc. Common experiential learning methods include but are not limited to the following.

  • Laboratory experiments,
  • Internships,
  • Field activities,
  • Innovation exercises,
  • Active experimentation,
  • Practicums 
  • Undergraduate research activities

In these experiential learning methods, children comprehend what they are learning and what they can achieve by implementing the concepts in real time instead of merely memorizing them. They gain a deeper learning experience through experiential methods.

Studies show that the knowledge retention rate for employees who have learned through experiential learning activities is 90%, while that of traditional learning methods is just 5%. This shows the significance of experiential learning in schools and educational institutes. 

Now that we have understood the experiential education meaning, the next section talks about experiential learning in education.

What Is Experiential Learning in Education?

Well-planned experiential and experimental learning methods have far benefits as they help shape a child into a fully-rounded individual with knowledge and abilities in multiple disciplines. Beyond classroom learning, experiential learning activities encourage children not to conform to defaults, but to question their habits, accept changes more easily, and explore innovative ways to handle real-time problems and challenges. 

Experiential learning hones a child’s leadership and time management skills, intellectual and problem-solving abilities, and critical thinking capacities. It encourages interdisciplinary learning to empower children with abilities to explore different perspectives, thoughts, and new ideas and build upon them. 

Elements of Experiential Learning in Education

The following presents the important experiential learning component. 

  • Research, analysis, reflection, and synthesis of all children consume. 
  • Learning methods and experiences are carefully curated to meet the children’s individual needs and unique abilities. 
  • Encouraging children to be responsible and accountable for the outcomes. 
  • Offering a platform to unleash their creative skills and innovative abilities. 
  • Offering a conducive environment for children to engage more of their senses physically, emotionally, psychologically, creatively, and so on. 
  • Building a well-thought-out strategy and holistic learning experience encourages them to learn beyond textbooks and blackboards through natural consequences, mistakes, challenges, and achievements. 

Principles of Experiential Learning (EL)

Traditional modes of teaching follow a rigid, structured, pre-defined approach to learning. What one finds interesting may be boring and mundane to the other. Experiential learning methods offer children an opportunity to work on real-world problems and experiences and base their learning on such experiences.

Experiential learning theory aims for more personalization, and the platform encourages children to build upon their skills and abilities in a way they find interesting.  

Following are some of the principles of experiential learning.

Explaining Principles of Experiential Learning

  1. Learning in real-time

    Experiential learning theory encourages children to work on solving real-time problems and challenges. Experiences gained from indulging in real-time activities serve as a source of learning for children. It helps learners comprehend the community problems and work on them instead of conforming to the defaults. Such activities make learning an authentic and engaging experience for the learner.

  2. Learning by doing

    Through experiential learning activities, learners gain knowledge and new ideas from engaging hands-on. When they learn new concepts, they get to explore and experiment with the same in real-time. They learn to experiment in real-time and resource optimization. This way, children gain self-reliance and become confident in what they learn and consume.

  3. Accountability and responsibility

    With experiential learning, children tend to become accountable and responsible for the outcomes and results. Because they are let out to learn from their own experiences instead of going through a structured curriculum, children tend to put forth more initiatives, take decisions, and hold themselves accountable for the outcomes.

  4. Learning is authentic

    Because the learner is working to solve a real-time problem with a solid purpose, the whole process becomes authentic. As they work on a problem that will bring about a difference in the community, they engage themselves deeper and feel more responsible for learning and working. So, students succeed in all their endeavors, and even if they fail, they tend to learn from the experience

  5. Learning is Immersive

    In experiential learning, learners get immersed completely into the experience, and so their learning is more meaningful and profound. Such experiences shape their development and mold them into fully-rounded beings as they grow and mature. 

    Studies show that children feel motivated to learn and are actively engaged when they are exposed to real-time problems and experiential learning opportunities. This reduces the length of the learning cycle.

  6. Learning is Dynamic

    In traditional education, they would work on problems and challenges that were fixed and static. Because they work on real-world problems and challenges in experiential learning or experimental learning,  they learn to work on interconnected things. Dynamic Learning

    Learning is dynamic, and the learner has to put their cognitive, social, and physical senses to use as they work on real-time challenges.

  7. Learning is Collaborative

    While working on real-time problems, learners work in teams and develop social skills. They learn to appreciate others in the team and strategize ways to leverage diversity to achieve greater efficiency. The learners also learn to share their responsibility with fellow peers and team members.

  8. Learning is Interconnected

    In experimental learning, learning is an interconnected process, unlike the traditional mediums that propagate a linear system of learning. The engaged learning process in experiential education lets the learner learn from consequences, iterations, mistakes, and success.

  9. Learning is Futuristic

    Experiential learning focuses on encouraging students to work on real-time problems and find creative solutions to the challenges they endure in the process. 

    As the outcomes are unpredictable many a time, students usually experience success, failure, uncertainties, and several other consequences. Learning from such experiences and emotions helps strengthen their foundation and future-proof their skills and abilities.

What Are The Student Roles In Experiential Learning?

A key difference between traditional learning methods and experiential learning theory is that students decide their involvement in the latter, while in the former, students do not have a say. 

Unlike traditional learning methods, where the teacher offers instructions at each step of the learning process, the teacher or the facilitator acts as a guide and mentor in experiential learning. Students participate at their own will and assume responsibility for the learning process and outcomes. To an extent, experiential learning eases the academic and nurturing aspects of the teacher.

Following are some of the key roles of students in the experiential learning process. 

  • Students work to solve problems in the community. They also work on personal problems and challenges. The problems are real, and the learning structure is more practical. That’s why experiential learning is often called experimental learning. 
  • The teacher will assume the role of a guide and monitor the students for their progress. As long as they are making progress, students are offered complete freedom to explore, undertake active experimentation, and learn. 
  • Students learn to become more self-reliant. They choose the problems they would want to work on, assess themselves for progress, and assume responsibility for the outcome. 
  • With experiential learning, students tend to develop an open mind to accept the opinions and thoughts of other people on the team. Because they are learning from the consequence of their own actions, they learn to evaluate them more objectively and leverage the diversity in a team towards achieving their commitment and goal. 

What Are The Benefits of Experiential Learning?

Experiential learning has proven to deliver a broad range of benefits to students’ development and evolution. 

Benefits of Experiential Learning

  1. Students can unleash their creativity

    Experiential learning activities offer students more space to unleash their creativity. It hones their problem-solving skills. As students work on real-world problems, they tend to explore multiple ways and build creative solutions hands-on to solve the challenges.

  2. Students can grasp concepts at a quicker pace

    In traditional modes of learning, students struggle to grasp concepts because they merely memorize them. Whereas in experiential learning, it becomes easy for them to understand concepts because they get to experiment with what they learn in real time. 

    As they are learning from experiences and engagements, students tend to grasp difficult concepts at an accelerated pace than otherwise.

  3. Students exhibit a positive attitude toward learning

    As students build deeper engagements and learn from experiences and reflective observation, their attitude toward learning improves. Because they become an active part of the learning process, students assume responsibility for their learning. Students find the experiential learning activities and process more interesting and engaging.

  4. Students gain futuristic skills

    Through experiential learning, students learn to work on real-time problems and find creative solutions to the challenges they endure in the process. Also, they assume accountability and responsibility for the outcome. They also learn to work in collaboration with other people in the community and work out strategies to leverage diversity. 

    This improves their social skills, problem-solving abilities, and critical thinking skills, which in turn, prepares them for the future. They learn to navigate through difficult and challenging situations.

  5. Students learn from experiences and mistakes

    When students work on real-world problems, they try to figure out a solution through iterative experiments. They learn from experiences and mistakes, and when they grow up, they tend to look at failures and mistakes as experiences and lessons.

How To Apply Experiential Learning In The Classroom?

If you are a teacher, you might be thinking about leveraging experiential learning principles and processes in your classroom. 

Here are a few tips for applying experiential learning in the classroom and engaging students in experiential learning activities. 

Develop a reflective approach

Always follow these four steps when you engage children in an activity, fieldwork, sports, or other experiences. 

  1. Choose an experience

    The first step is to pick an experience. It could be fieldwork, experiment, sports activity, or classroom teaching.

  2. Reflect on the experience.

    Next, you should think about various aspects of the experience. You should reflect on your thoughts and understand what went well, what did not go so well, etc.

  3. Analyse the experience

    As a third step, analyze deeper and understand what made the experience worthwhile. If you take classroom teaching, find out what made the activity interesting. Was it your subject expertise? Or was it your instructions? Or something else? Reflect on the experiences.

    Discover which type of learning suits you best: Online learning or Offline classroom learning

  4. Plan your future activity.

    Once you analyze the activity, you should plan your future activities based on the experience you have gained. You can make relevant changes and create better plans based on your analysis of the experience.

Apply experiential learning principles in other activities.

You should not restrict experiential education principles, theory, and practice to classroom teaching but try to expand it to other activities.

Beyond classroom experiential learning activities, you may engage them in other activities, including 

  1. Sports Training

    By reflecting on the experiences and mistakes from the past, experiential learning has the ability to help athletes and sportsmen in training themselves to exhibit the best.

  2. Field activities and trips

    Experiential learning principles are appropriate for taking students to field activities as they develop reflective observation on the experiences and learn hands-on during the process.

  3. Skill development activities

    Using experiential learning principles when you engage students in new activities helps hone their skills and abilities at a quicker pace than otherwise.

  4. Internship

    As internships are about working in the field for a limited duration, applying experiential learning principles helps students gain more in a limited amount of time.

  5. Hands-on laboratory experiments

    Working on laboratory experiments helps students test their conceptual understanding in real-time.

Final Notes

Irrespective of whether you are a student, teacher, or working professional, experiential learning principles and theories are appropriate, valuable, and vital. 

Schools and educational institutes should use various types of experiential learning activities like internships, research activities, community-based engagements, etc. They may use school management software to manage and build experiential learning solutions. 

Experiential learning deepens the learning process and makes it more engaging for you to learn throughout the experiences you create in your life. When you learn through direct experiences, you are more likely to immerse completely, retain what you have learned for longer, and assume responsibility for what you have learned.

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