What does experiential learning look like?
Experiential Learning is one of today’s most popular learning approaches adopted in the educational sphere. It is a dominant passage for learning in labschools. As the term suggests, Experiential Learning refers to learning which takes place through experiences. In other words, when the learner is involved in an activity, the experiences that they are subject to, help them understand various things through reflection, thereby allowing learning to take place.
The heart and soul of Experiential Learning is that each child is seen as an exceptional being capable of learning through observation and interaction and so learns through reflecting from those interactions. The inherent potential in them makes them receive experiences and learn to apply the knowledge gained through them. As a result, the major areas of a child’s development namely, emotional, mental or intellectual, social, spiritual or moral, physiological, and speech & expression, contribute to his/her overall development.
Techniques followed in Administering Experiential Learning
Although there are no set techniques or methods observed in such a learning environment, there are certain types and forms of activities that are administered to enable learning through personal and group reflections. They can be considered as guidelines as the activities are carried out. They may vary in some ways
Time gap – The facilitator may give appropriate time spaces for learners to think and respond to what is being discussed or the activity currently in session.
Confront learners and their supposed misconceptions – This may help in rooting out the reasons or causes for misconceptions, unwrapping them, and then replace them with the right or valid information.
Concept maps – By asking learners to draw a concept map, the teachers may get an idea on how each learner views, understands, and relates to a concept, further helping to fine-tune the learning environment for their benefit.
Explain and apply the concept – The learners are asked to explain and then apply the learned concept in another scenario. This helps in knowing how much they can exercise critical thinking through relevance.
Questioning – Learners are asked simple and direct questions that are often open-ended so that an open-minded thought process and further discussions take place to find the basic of answers.
Freedom to make mistakes (and learn from them) – The learners are allowed and at times, encouraged to make errors so that they serve as excellent opportunities for learning new things and ways of doing things.
Making the learners lead the activity – The learners are usually made the authority in an Experiential Learning environment. They are constantly kept engaged and in control, by adjusting the activities depending on the interest levels of the learners or the course of the situation. However, the teacher is still observant at the background, intervening when necessary.
The common activities include, games, role-playing, simulations, group activities, and presentations.
What does the Teacher do?
The teacher or the facilitator is more of a flexible person in the whole learning process who facilitates the activity, mediates between individuals, and clarifies on certain “ground rules” that needs to be adhered to in order to help the learners make the most of their experiences. He/she is there is in the picture, but occasionally pops up to guide the whole process, at the same time, allowing unexpected discoveries to be made among the learners.
Facilitates – The teacher provides and ensures a safe and relaxed environment to help learners feel free to express, feel valued and respected in the environment. It is his/her job to monitor and support the learners and constantly remind them of how they are in control of the learning space. And then occasionally, should be able to pitch in and ensure that concepts are absorbed and received by all in the group.
Source of Encouragement – As Experiential Learning often nudges learners to step out of their shells, the teacher must gently but firmly encourage and build confidence in each learner according to their pace to explore. From time to time, and stage to stage, it is the responsibility of the teacher to put light on the learners’ struggles and improvements and motivate them to make meaningful and independent choices throughout. In times on conflicts, he/she must know how to alter their perceptions and take proactive decisions.
Brings Closure to the Learning Session – The teacher must be quick and apt in wrapping up the session in the right way, at the right time, to ensure that every learner is at the peak of absorbing from their own reflections. This should be done in such a way that the learner must be able to connect the dots along with the words of the teacher that helps fill the gaps for a coherent understanding of the activity. The teacher must touch upon aspects of why the task was conducted, how it was achieved, what struggles were faced, how were they overcome, and then give time for each learner to apply these inferences for themselves for personal growth. Asking them to verbalize them on paper or by speaking can help others to see and learn too.
Problem-Solving and External Influences
Problem-solving is an interesting concept in which, some form of an interruption is introduced in a routine (a continuous interaction with an environment). The learner would then stop, analyze the "problem", search for a solution, chart out a feasible strategy, and then try to implement it to do away with the interruption. Through this process, learners would learn and develop on coping with situations, retaining & retrieving relevant information, and think of creative alternatives and methods to accomplish the task.
To enhance these components, learners are placed into a variety of environments. This is because being “trapped” in their own comfort setting, will limit their understanding and thinking levels. To generalize and expand their horizons beyond the familiar to other possible external situations, learners are taken on short excursions to parks, farms, factories, libraries, zoos, and museums. This will also help to encourage them to refer to knowledge and experiences of the past and the present.