Aug 11, 2020 7 min read
The Ministry of HRD has recently put forward the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) which, among other things, is aimed at reforming the current Indian education pattern and aligning it more with internationally accepted education norms. Moreover, the NEP 2020 shifts the focus from the traditionally used system of rote-learning, which has been the norm in India, to a system based on experiential learning and conceptual understanding, which would help students apply their knowledge in real world situations. And this is not something new. For many years, educators across the globe have made the case for shifting towards a more experiential learning pattern which is more likely to help students succeed in their daily lives as social individuals.
But what exactly is Experiential Learning? What are the benefits? And what can teachers do to incorporate this pattern in their own classrooms?Let’s find out.
The simplest way to explain Experiential Learning is an adage that we all know:
I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.
The American educational theorist David Kolb defined experiential learning as "the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience." According to him, the way to gain knowledge is by understanding an experience and suitably applying the learning from that experience in other situations. According to Kolb’s model, the four steps of experiential learning are:
Traditional learning methods in India have focussed far too much on rote learning and memorisation. This allowed students with a good memory to potentially score more, even if the lessons or concepts were not clear to them. On the other hand, a pattern which encourages understanding at a conceptual level can help students build on the foundation of what they already know and help them to create new and more meaningful connections between new and old concepts. By encouraging students to think critically from an early age, experiential learning helps them to discover new connections and acquire new problem solving skills, rather than rely on quick fix solutions offered by parents and teachers.
A classic example of the difference between traditional learning and experiential learning is how children learn about animals. In traditional system, students learn about animals by reading what is written in a book, and what is told to them by the teacher. However in the experiential model, students learn about animals by going to a zoo or an animal reserve, and observing animals in the real-life environment of the zoo. By observing, interacting, enquiring and coming up with suitable hypothesis about what the animals eat, how they behave in captivity, how they interact with other animals and the zoo-keepers, students can learn a lot more, and a lot better as compared to the traditional model.
Studies have shown that the benefits of experiential learning are widespread and go far beyond the school years. Just a few benefits of this model are :
While the NEP 2020 is pushing for experiential learning process in the future, schools can do a lot to promote a hands-on learning approach within and outside their classrooms. Among many others things, these include:
It is clear that the new changes proposed in the NEP are bound to increase focus on understanding and application of core concepts, rather than mechanical memorisation of information. After many years, the NEP 2020 is a long awaited first step towards a holistic approach of learning that will help students develop skills as per their inherent aptitude and competencies. And that can only mean exciting new things are in store for the education system and students in India.
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