Experiential Learning: Is there really a question about this?
The things we have to learn before we do them, we learn by doing them. Aristotle
Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results. John Dewey
My training as an educator occurred through experiential education rather than the traditional route. Experiential Education is based on the following principles as articulated by the Association for Experiential Education:
- Experiential learning occurs when carefully chosen experiences are supported by reflection, critical analysis and synthesis.
- Experiences are structured to require the learner to take initiative, make decisions and be accountable for results.
- Throughout the experiential learning process, the learner2 is actively engaged in posing questions, investigating, experimenting, being curious, solving problems, assuming responsibility, being creative, and constructing meaning.
- Learners are engaged intellectually, emotionally, socially, soulfully and/or physically. This involvement produces a perception that the learning task is authentic.
- The results of the learning are personal and form the basis for future experience and learning.
- Relationships are developed and nurtured: learner to self, learner to others and learner to the world at large.
- The educator and learner may experience success, failure, adventure, risk-taking and uncertainty, because the outcomes of experience cannot totally be predicted.
- Opportunities are nurtured for learners and educators to explore and examine their own values.
- The educator’s primary roles include setting suitable experiences, posing problems, setting boundaries, supporting learners, insuring physical and emotional safety, and facilitating the learning process.
- The educator recognizes and encourages spontaneous opportunities for learning.
- Educators strive to be aware of their biases, judgments and pre-conceptions, and how these influence the learner.
- The design of the learning experience includes the possibility to learn from natural consequences, mistakes and successes. (http://www.aee.org/what-is-ee)
I know no other way of teaching. Knowing the powerful results of experiential education, it confuses me as to why more (if not all) educators don’t teach this way. In the graphic below, the images in the left column are learners from my own classrooms, the images on the right symbolize more traditional approaches in educational institutions. As “A picture says a 1000 words,” the expressions of the learners say engagement, interest, joy, and learning. Which do you want your students, your children to experience at school?