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Experiential learning vs Textbook Orientation

By Charu Noheria, Co-Founder and COO, Practically

February 12, 2021    7 min read

Educators know students learn quicker and retain more information when the subject matter pertains to them personally and when they do it, it sticks with them even more. Experiential Learning is the process of learning by doing. By engaging students in hands-on experiences and reflection, educators are better able to connect theories and knowledge taught in the classroom to real-world situations.

The pedagogical paradigm shift in education to learning environments composed of teaching delivery methods of online courses, blended/hybrid formats is increasing access to global, lifelong learning. The traditional Indian classroom is characterized by repetition and memorization of content of prescribed textbooks. Experiential Learning classroom stresses on not just learning but learning practically. It targets the acquisition of cognitive skills through critical thinking, problem-solving and decision making. This approach accelerates learning. Theories can be brought to life by doing tasks and projects that bridge the gap between rote and practical learning. ‘Learning by doing’ is effective and it has a positive effect on the cognitive, affective, and physical domains of learners.

Visual aids have always been useful for better retention and application of concepts. They help bring learning alive! Furthermore, when students learn through experiences, the learnings stay with them. Incorporating videos and simulations into the e-Learning process brings an exciting flair to traditional education. Learners can hear and see the various concepts that are being taught and will similarly process them during everyday interactions. Further, these aids assist in the teaching-learning process, particularly complex and demanding topics.

Some of the important aspects of experiential learning are:

Creates real-world relevance: Students may tune out during lectures if they think the material does not pertain to the real world. Experiential learning takes data and concepts and applies them to immediate tasks, yielding real results from which they can improvise. As students interact with the information, it becomes real to them. Of course, each student’s learning experience will be guided by their unique perspective, and thus each will interact with the information and the task in different ways—and may have different and even novel results. In this way, the experiential classroom emulates “real” society encouraging experimentation.

Provides an opportunity for creativity: Experiential learning enables students to engage the creative parts of their brain and seek out their solutions to the problem or task on their own. This creative problem-solving, and the variety of results produced, enriches the classroom experience as a whole. Opportunities or experimentation that are limited in a physical world can be encouraged in a virtual experiential world as it comes with zero cost. This is the beginning of limitless learning.

Teaches the value of mistakes: Experiential learning involves trial and error. As students engage in hands-on tasks, they find that some approaches work better than others. They discard the methods that do not work, but the act of trying something and then abandoning it becomes a valuable part of the learning process. Students learn not to fear mistakes, but to benefit from them thereby applying what they learn. There is never a failure in experiential learning, you either succeed or learn.

Accelerates learning: The act of practising a skill strengthens the neural connections in the brain, making us, in effect, better with time. As student engagement increases through these processes, learning accelerates, and retention improves. The holistic learning process is enriched with the application of concept learnt and students achieve mastery in topics learnt much more quickly than achieved through traditional learning.

Offers direction to develop interests/careers: Many experiential learning projects are career-oriented because they are grounded in real-world activities. Through these activities, students start to discover and develop their skills, aptitudes, and passions. This self-discovery sets them on a more defined path to what they want to pursue in the long run, including college and careers.

Thus, experiential learning engages students’ emotions by bringing learning alive and enhancing their knowledge and skills. Additionally, when students see the concrete fruits of their labour, they experience greater gratification and pride, enhancing their enthusiasm for continued learning and upskilling in this dynamic world.

This article was first published on 11 February 2021 on the BW Education (Business World) website

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