User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Experiential Learning: Is there really a question about this?

with 6 comments

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. (

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?


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 26, 2014 at 2:23 pm

6 Responses

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  1. First principle: “Experiential learning occurs when carefully chosen experiences are supported by reflection, critical analysis and synthesis.”

    Wonder what a poll of educators would show in terms of including those three efforts on a list of EL features???


    October 26, 2014 at 2:41 pm

  2. Hi Jackie, I teach this way with math for sure but I find it difficult with Language Arts. Any suggestions? Websites? Blogs?

    Erin Little

    October 26, 2014 at 3:25 pm

  3. Limitations to EL. It’s very subjective, based on a person’s own experience, and opinion based. Two people can have totally different experiences of the same event. With that said more emphasis on others experiences would be more beneficial for growth. I still believe that traditional way teaching has it’s role and must not be neglected. I don’t believe learning should be student centred. How can it be student centred when you have more than one pupil and just one teacher. There would be lack of direction. Introverts would lose out dramatically, and grades would fall. Theory and practice go hand in hand and both must be applied for growth in knowledge. Lewin, Kolb, Honey and Mumford, Deming and Shewart all agree that you must theorise and apply that theory for effective learning to be achieved.

    Roy Galvin

    November 2, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    • First, since no two students are alike, no matter how the “subject” is taught, even lectures, they will have different experiences of the same event. Second, who ever said that experiential learning precludes the use of theory. Part of Kolb’s model of experiential learning is conceptualization using theories to support and enhance the experience.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      November 3, 2014 at 1:57 pm

      • There are so many different learning styles. People are championing experiential learning as the preferred learning style over others. My point is that there are limitations to all styles. 1984 Kolb, argued there are four learning elements / stages to experiential learning and the learner must engage in all four elements and continue in a circular way through these elements for effective learning to be achieved. Kolb and Kolb (2009: 309-10), upgraded it to a spiral model: The experiential learning cycle is actually a learning spiral…… Kolb (1971) diverging, assimilating, converging and accomadating, then a learning style inventory was published based on the four elements (Kolb, 1976). His LSI has been revised a number of times since and now there are nine learning styles (Learning from Experience, 2012) Wildemeersch (1989: 62) ‘experiential learning might turn adult education into an a political, a curricular, reactive and consumer-orientated enterprise which casts the educator in the role of marketing expert and technician of teaching-learning machinery….leads to isolation, individualism and poor learning’. What we must not lose focus is the student learning effectively from my style of teaching. I do agree however that greater emphasis is now given to personal learning preference. If a student finds it easier to learn in a particular way, the teacher must give due consideration to this, though this is difficult in a large group. Kolbs ninth style is about balance. In your images above there is no real question? From your images and question above your asking the viewer to make a choice. I’m sure you will agree there really is no choice, experiential learning can be found not only through active engagement from the photos on the left but also from the banking methods on the right.

        Roy Galvin

        November 4, 2014 at 1:28 am

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