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Opinion Piece: The Impact of Experiential Learning in Education

Experiential Learning, as defined by the Association for Experiential Education, is a teaching philosophy that informs many methodologies in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experiences and focused reflection to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values, and enhance people’s capacity to contribute to their communities.

According to the Association for Business Simulation and Experiential Learning (ABSEL), Experiential Learning occurs when a personally responsible participant cognitively, affectively, and behaviorally possesses knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes in a learning situation characterized by a high level of active involvement.

In essence, Experiential Learning can be succinctly described as “learning by doing.” While the term was coined in the 19th century, its conceptual roots can be traced back to ancient philosophies that highlight the influence of experiences on shaping individuals. When these experiences are purposefully organized within a controlled environment with specific learning objectives, Experiential Learning is effectively employed.

In the educational setting, Experiential Learning can take various forms, such as engaging in activities, conducting lab experiments, participating in plays, creating models, holding group discussions, being involved in community service, and participating in extra-curricular activities. The role of the teacher shifts to that of a facilitator, where students collaborate towards achieving a common goal rather than competing with one another. Subsequently, the teacher encourages students to reflect on their experiences to deepen the learning process.

A practical illustration of Experiential Learning can be observed in the field of medicine. While medical students gain knowledge from extensive reading, their true understanding of performing surgery only comes through active involvement as part of an operating team. Experiential Learning is also an important element of early education, where instead of textbooks, children are encouraged to play.

Though the practice has its roots in philosophy, it is also supported by scientific research. Studies consistently show that this method is better at helping students remember information compared to traditional learning. It also encourages students to be more creative. Because Experiential Learning focuses on communication and teamwork, it helps students develop important life skills.

We can see evidence of this in athletes, who are usually disciplined, hardworking, optimistic, resilient, and good at communicating. They didn’t start out this way, but they developed these skills through their experiences in sports and other activities.

Experiential Learning offers practical benefits as it helps students apply their knowledge to solve real-world issues. A study involving 29 sixth-grade students in Vietnam revealed that engaging in experiential learning activities had a positive impact on their attitudes toward Mathematics and improved their academic progress in the classroom.

By using their arithmetic and geometric skills to address real-life problems, these students outperformed their peers who followed traditional teaching approaches.

Vietnam’s Mathematics education plan goes beyond mere instruction; it emphasizes the practical implementation of the subject. To achieve this, integrating Math into learning games, clubs, forums, seminars, contests, and other activities is encouraged. Notably, Experiential Learning is gaining traction in the education plans of various countries and universities, transcending its influence beyond Vietnamese schools.

Experiential Learning is gaining prominence in numerous educational institutions throughout the United States, recognized as a global centre for education. A case in point is George Stevens Academy, where students actively participate in diverse activities like outdoor sports, adventures, cooking, and arts.

Similarly, Canterbury School in Connecticut, a renowned college preparatory institution, emphasizes active engagement within the student community. Through this approach, students are well-prepared for their academic journey, and equipped with essential skills to excel in college and beyond. These skills encompass critical thinking, problem-solving, effective writing and communication, as well as a solid foundation in digital literacy.

Concurrently, England has developed its own strategy to cultivate a skilled and employable workforce. In recent years, small and fully sponsored secondary schools known as studio schools have sprung up nationwide. With an enrollment of about 300 students per school, these institutions aim to create personalized learning environments. Studio schools forge partnerships with local businesses and companies, and many students work part-time to develop valuable skills while gaining early exposure to the professional world.

Back home in India, the National Education Policy of 2020 has set forth a vision to position the country as a leading global knowledge superpower. The policy strives to establish an educational framework that aligns with Indian values while fostering an equitable and dynamic knowledge-driven society. A key aspect of the policy is the integration of Experiential Learning at all educational stages. Although the popularity of Experiential Learning is increasing in urban areas and vocational colleges, it is not reaching children in rural regions and underprivileged communities in cities.

As an organization, we aim to bridge this gap and ensure that the disparity in available resources does not lead to a significant ratio of our future workforce lacking essential skills. Our programs focus on offering Experiential Learning opportunities to underprivileged children, with activities centred around football, music, and Lego building blocks. Through our comprehensive range of programs, we are committed to extending the advantages of Experiential Learning to underprivileged children.

By Garima Kumar
Communications Associate