What is Experiential Learning?

As it’s name suggests, Experiential Learning could be most simply understood as learning by doing. Experiential Learning is often associated with constructivist learning theory.

Why is Experiential Learning useful?

The old adage of ‘nothing beats some hands on experience’ applies here. Through putting students in situations to build real world experiences, experiences that have both benefits and consequences, students are able to put their learnings into practice. Experiential Learning encourages students to make discoveries and experiment with knowledge themselves, instead of hearing or reading about the experiences of others. Think about when you were studying to be a teacher, if you were anything like me, then the most valuable time spent during your university/college education was the time spent on teaching rounds.

How could I incorporate Experiential Learning in the classroom?

Chances are if you’ve read through the what and why of Experiential Learning then you will already have formed some ideas about how best to incorporate this learning style in your own classroom. In the beginning stages of Experiential Learning, and depending on the age of your students, it is perhaps best to use things such as role plays, games and simulations of real life situations. Anything that will bring the subject your teaching out of the text book and into the ‘real world’ of your students. It may require you, as the teacher, to rethink the way you lead your class, leading to a more dynamic learning environment.

If students are a little older Experiential Learning can move outside of the classroom. Longer terms projects that involve numerous elements both in and out of the classroom can work well, depending on the class. Preparing a school magazine is a prime example. Keep it interesting, but keep in grounded in the subject your leading.

What are the benefits of Experiential Learning?

The benefits for the students are obvious. Experiential Learning encourages students to think more freely about how their actions and knowledge can impact upon real world scenarios.

I would argue that the key feature of Experiential Learning is the way in which it asks you, as the teacher, to change the way you view the classroom. It forces your teaching to become more dynamic and active as you, in effect, learn with your students, reviewing what works and what doesn’t, and all the while improving. It helps prevent your teaching style from growing stale, and that can only be a good thing for everyone.

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