Education Plus

Learning by doing

A student participating in an adventure-based experiential learning camp. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Albert Einstein once said, “Learning is experience, everything else is information.” When my 12-year-old niece wanted to buy a game which has a DIY working model on photosynthesis, I knew that the experiential learning bug had bitten Indian students too.

Though the concept might look new, it was, in fact, embedded way back in the Indian education system. Gurukul is the quintessential experiential learning format — a learning initiated by an interaction between the learner and his environment. In the olden days, the gurukul system imparted key aspects of education to students in the form of various activities undertaken in an open environment under the supervision of a guru.

Experiential learning, in the digital world, is a blended form of learning which essentially has rich content including field trips, DIY experiments, simple videos, robotics and much more. Not a newbie to the world, experiential learning has been in vogue since the 1930s, and was popularised by education philosopher David A. Kolb, who, along with John Fry, developed the experiential learning theory in 1984.

Experiential learning requires a series of experiences in the real-world setup. The experiences involved are not required to be equally educative, with some being more engaging from cognitive, emotional, and physical standpoints. Unlike rote learning or curriculum learning, experiential learning may happen in a wink, or over days, weeks or months, depending on the topic.

The CBSE Board has been making attempts to move away from dependency on rote learning and inculcating more application-based learning. The introduction of Open Text Book Assessment (OTBA) in 2013 for Classes IX and XI, and in 2014 for Classes X and XII, has been received well. IGCSE and IB programmes are known to be application-based and have a broader spectrum of subjects, involving experiential learning in the form of activity-based modules and grasping sessions without books. This has resulted in more challenging situations and put students’ knowledge to test, rather than their memory and speed.

Experiential learning is a way of educating based on experience, where skills, awareness and understanding are acquired outside of the traditional classrooms. The activities may include internships, lectures abroad, excursion trips, field study, and service-learning job. Some of the benefits of experiential learning are:

Real-world adaptability: There is a general tendency among human beings to take an interest in learning facts that exist in the real world. Experiential learning takes information and data from the real world and makes students aware through hands-on tasks. As the students work with real-life information, it becomes authentic for them. Additionally, each student’s learning and understanding will be guided by their past experiences, and thus, each student will approach the task in unique ways, generating different results. Thus, the experience will be real and will have a long-lasting impact.

Increased motivation and commitment levels: The students are provided an option to choose an activity, thus increasing their engagement and commitment. As the student is directly involved in the problem-solving activity or event, the level of commitment is high.

Learning from mistakes: Experiential learning is based on “trial by error.” As you undertake the tasks, you find some approaches work better than others. This allows one to get rid of the methods that don’t work, but the act of trying something and then leaving it — normally considered a “mistake,” actually becomes an essential part in the learning procedure.

Honing leadership skills: Most experiential learning activities require that students work in teams. These team projects foster leadership and team-building skills.

The writer is chief operating officer, Fastudent.


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Printable version | Oct 11, 2021 10:03:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/education/learning-by-doing/article8570113.ece

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