What is experiential learning?
As the name suggests, experiential learning is the process of learning through experience. Experiential learning theory was initially proposed by psychologist David Kolb who emphasised how experiences influence the learning process. Kolb defined experiential learning as "the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combinations of grasping and transforming the experience."
In his experiential learning theory, Kolb described two different ways of grasping experience:
• Concrete Experience
• Abstract Conceptualisation
He also identified two ways of transforming experience:
• Reflective Observation
• Active or reflective experimentation
What are the benefits of experiential learning?
Over the years, experiential learning has proven to have a wide range of benefits that contribute to a child's development.
Students can better grasp concepts
Students may struggle to grasp concepts that don't pertain to the “real world.” With experiential learning, students are given the opportunity to apply data and ideas in a real-world situation where they too play an active role. As the student interacts with the information, it becomes real to them.
Students have the opportunity to be more creative
Experiential learning is one of the best ways to teach creative problem-solving. With real-world content, children learn that there are multiple solutions to challenges, and they are encouraged to seek their unique solution to hands-on tasks.
Students have the opportunity to reflect
By incorporating concrete experiences with abstract concepts, and then reflecting on the outcome, students engage more regions of their brain and make stronger connections with the material. They are encouraged to analyse how their actions affected the issue, and how their outcome may have varied from other students’. This analysis helps them better understand how the concepts learned can be applied to other, varied circumstances.
Students’ mistakes become valuable experiences
As students engage in hands-on tasks, they will find some approaches work better than others. They discard the methods that don’t work, but the act of trying something and then abandoning it – ordinarily considered a “mistake” – becomes a valuable part of the learning process. Students learn not to fear mistakes, but to value them.
Teachers often observe improved attitudes toward learning
Experiential learning is designed to engage students' emotions as well as enhancing their knowledge and skills. Playing an active role in the learning process can lead to students experiencing greater gratification in learning.
Experiential learning focuses on the learning process for the individual. One example of experiential learning is going to the zoo and learning through observation and interaction with the zoo environment, as opposed to reading about animals from a book.