How Experiential Learning Contributes To Better Learning Experiences

The very concept of experiential learning has been thrown around quite frequently of late. It’s a growing trend in the teaching process that more and more schools have begun adopting. The idea is quite simple and works around the process of learning through one’s experiences or a “reflection of doing”.
Originally coined by David Kolb the process follows a cycle of 4 steps:

1. Concrete Experience
2. Reflective Observation
3. Abstract Conceptualization
4. Testing/Active Experimentation
This model of steps is something that seems to appear time and time again in our lives and it has been argued that this learning cycle can begin and end at any of these steps.
How It Works
So what this means, is that the process begins with a person carrying out a particular action and then seeing the effect of the action in a situation. Following this, the second step involves understanding these effects in the instance of the situation in the event if the same action was taken in the same circumstances, it would be possible to anticipate what would follow from the action. In this pattern the third step would follow, understanding the general principle under which the particular instance falls. When this general principle is understood, the last step is application through action in a new circumstance. This ends up completing the cycle.
The World is Your Classroom
It can be argued in favor of experiential learning that concepts that may be hard to grasp in the classroom can be easier to come to terms with through real world experiences. Studies have proven that learning in a real world experience can prove to be more effective in that the learners is made to adapt based on the real world surroundings through careful observations and generalization. Through this learning experience, one can:
1. Gain valuable experience in the field.
2. Study and learn on a more global and local scale.
3. Understand the importance of real life experiences.
4. Participate actively in a dynamic environment.
Individual Learning: A Matter of Here-and-Now
Many studies believe that the very concept of experiential learning is focused on the “here-and-now” that can have serious implications on what we take out of the overall experience. By this, we regard experiential learning as being more on the lines of individual development or developing people as individuals. This is a fair assessment as most experiences, in general, are determined and controlled.
Conventional VS Experiential
Today, schools and organizations dedicated to educating focus on a variety of methods that they believe will contribute to one’s overall development. But there is a clear distinction in how these procedures are carried out. Some consider the concept of learning through experiences and one’s individual development as opposed to conventional methods which are designed for the purpose of developing one’s capabilities to meet a measurable standard or an organizations’ standards.
It’s no secret that people need such abilities, skills and knowledge but what needs to be highlighted here is that conventional methods are more focused on the bureaucratic requirements of an organization and one’s overall ability to meet such qualifications and standards. Therefore, the notion of developing people as individuals is regarded by many employers and much of the educational establishments as less efficient and effective than conventional training and teaching.
Many fail to see the benefits experiential education holds. By developing people as individuals – rather than simply transferring arbitrary capabilities helps develop essential things such as confidence, self-esteem, personal strengths, and crucially a rounded sense of purpose and fulfillment which fundamentally improve attitude, life-balance, and emotional well-being. These are just as important for productive work and a healthy society as the essential skills and knowledge typically represented in conventional education and work-related training.
That being said, there are a variety of differences between conventional and experiential learning:

Conventional Learning Experiential Learning
Training focused – Very Theoretical Learning focused – Very Hands-on
Fixed in its framework Open ended and flexible
For organizational needs For one’s personal growth
Involves the transfer of knowledge Knowledge is usually developed
Examples: Lectures, presentations etc Examples: Hobbies, Passions etc.

A Better Learning Experience
It’s no surprise that the vast majority of teaching and training in education and work continues to be conventional and not experiential. This can sometimes be understandable because, in terms of both education and later work, an organization’s needs may be put ahead one’s individual needs. It can be argued here that society is a bit ignorant and ‘broken’ with regards to this.
It’s difficult to deny the benefits experiential learning brings to the table. It can effectively address the real personal development needs of people, whether young or old and see improvements in confidence, self-esteem, personal responsibility and maturity which are so elusive when approached through conventional prescriptive teaching and training methods alone.

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