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Enhancing Education Through Experiential Learning 

March 2, 2023
By AdmissionSight
a group of college students walking side by side in a hall way

Enhancing Education Through Experiential Learning

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to learn better through hands-on experiences rather than just reading or listening to the information? The answer lies in the power of experiential learning!

This approach to education emphasizes the importance of practical, real-world experiences in the learning process rather than relying solely on traditional classroom methods.

Whether you’re a student, educator, or simply interested in the latest trends in education, this post will give you a deeper understanding of the transformative potential of experiential education.

What is experiential learning?

What does it mean to “learn from experience”? Learning through experience is a type of learning that happens when you do something.

When students have a chance to do hands-on activities and think about what they have learned, they can better apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-world situations.

There are many different ways to learn through experience, both inside and outside of the classroom.

View of people smiling at the camera.

Some examples of these formats are community service, service-learning, undergraduate research, study abroad or away, and culminating experiences like internships, student teaching, and capstone projects, just to name a few.

This helps you figure out who you are as a student and gives you the tools to take charge of your own learning and growth.

How a person learns can be seen as a metaphor for how they generally deal with life. It’s also how you deal with problems, come to conclusions, and deal with life’s challenges.

Learning can happen anywhere and stay with a person for the rest of their life. Learning through experience can help with performance improvements as well as learning and growth.

Kolb’s ELT

The part of David Kolb’s work that got him the most attention was the experiential learning theory, which is also called ELT.

Kolb introduced this model in 1984. He got ideas for it from the work of other famous theorists, like John Dewey, Kurt Lewin, and Jean Piaget.

Kolb went on to say that learners will have their own preferences for entering the learning cycle and that these preferences can be boiled down to a learning cycle.

In other words, each learner will choose how they want to start the learning cycle based on what works best for them.

David Kolb’s ELT Cycle

He said that the learning process can be broken down into four main steps, which we will now explain in more detail.

Concrete Experience

In the first step of the learning cycle, the learner has a real-world experience. This could mean learning something totally new or doing something they already know differently.

Reflective Observation

The cycle’s next phase is also very important, and its main focus is looking inward. The learner should take some time to think about what happened after a real-world experience or after watching others do the same thing and thinking about what’s going on in their behavior.

Two students talking on a table.

 

When you are learning something new, looking back and seeing how far you’ve come can be helpful. Keeping a notebook or using a template is one way to do this.

Abstract Conceptualization

After the learner has thought about what they have done and seen, it is time for them to figure out what it all means.

They might think about the next steps they need to take to get better, make a plan, or talk to an expert who can give them some advice. Because of this, they can come up with new ideas or change abstract ideas they already have. This makes it possible for them to act afterwards.

Active Experimentation

Active experimentation is the last step in Kolb’s experiential learning cycle, and it means taking action based on what the learner has learned and thought so far.

The student uses what they’ve learned from the first experience and watches how they do on the second try to see if anything has changed. This is a chance to try out some completely new ideas.

As a direct result of this active experimentation, the student will have a new real-world experience, and the learning process will start from the beginning.

This cycle can go on forever, or at least until the student is confident in the subject at hand and happy with how the real-world experience plays out for them. You can be sure that people will remember things better if you give them chances to show what they know in real-world situations like this.

Kolb’s Learning Styles

Kolb expanded the scope of his learning cycle in 1984 and made a model that showed the differences between different ways of learning.

Kolb concluded that there are four different ways to learn, each of which is based on the four-stage learning pattern presented.

1. Diverging

Kolb called this way of learning “diverging” because people with this style do better in situations requiring them to come up with ideas and can describe multiple ideas and concepts simultaneously in their heads.

Kolb says that learners with diverging learning styles can see things from different points of view.

People who like to learn in different ways usually have wide-ranging interests in society and like to learn about many different things.

They like coming up with creative ways to solve problems and using their imaginations to find out things. Most of the time, these students do very well in areas like literature, social sciences, and the liberal arts.

2. Assimilating

The “ponder and observe” method is sometimes used to describe the assimilative method of experiential learning. At the end of the day, the person’s ways of learning are self-observation and abstract conceptualization.

When it comes to education, incorporating a learning style means using a clear and logical way to do things. People who like to learn often place more value on ideas and concepts than on other people. They can’t learn well by doing things themselves; instead, they need clear explanations and examples.

People with a style called “assimilation” are very good at understanding many different kinds of information and putting it all together in a way that makes sense.

People who learn this way are more likely to be interested in theories backed up by good reasoning. And it shouldn’t be a surprise that many of them focus on careers in math and science.

One of their strengths is that they can put together different observations into a clear and logical explanation or hypothesis. Most of the time, these students care more about how convincing and accurate an argument is than how useful the idea being argued is.

3. Converging

Kolb said these students had a “convergent” way of learning because they often found the answers they sought. They are most interested in abstract conceptualization and active experimentation. The “think and do” method is another name for this.

People with an experiential learning style called “convergence” are good at thinking through problems and will use what they’ve learned to solve problems in the real world. After that, they can change their ideas based on what they’ve learned.

So, convergers tend to be more interested in tasks involving technology and less interested in activities requiring them to interact with others.

Instead, they tried out new ideas and worked on making them work in the real world. They are especially good at tasks that require them to choose the best answer from a few options. And did you know that these kinds of tasks are often part of traditional intelligence tests?

Their area of expertise is using theoretical and conceptual frameworks to solve real-world problems and situations. Convergers tend to prefer teaching methods like workbooks or worksheets, computer-based projects, and interactive activities that involve solving problems.

4. Accommodating

People with an open-minded way of learning are more likely to learn from “hands-on” experiences that let them rely on their intuition instead of logic. The “feel and do” way of communicating shows this preference for both concrete experience and introspective observation.

People who think this way tend to learn best through hands-on, experiential methods that let them solve their own problems. Rather than using rational analysis, this is often done by trying things out and seeing what works.

Their best quality is that they can get things done and make things happen. Put another way, they are proactive, set goals for themselves, and work hard to reach those goals, even if it means going with their “gut” rather than using analysis.

In a similar way, they are often able to change their plans based on the situation and, in general, have good people skills. People who are good at accommodating tend to do well in sales, marketing, and business because they have these traits.

What are the benefits of experiential learning?

What are the benefits of getting real-world experience? Over many years, it has been shown that learning through experience has a wide range of benefits that are good for one’s growth.

The students can understand the ideas better.

Children might find it hard to understand rules that have nothing to do with the “real world.” Students benefit from learning through experience because it gives them a chance to use the facts and ideas they’ve learned in a real-world situation in which they also take part. As the learner works with the information and uses it, it starts to make sense.

Female student smiling at the camera while holding a book.

Children can think and act with more creativity.

Learning through experience is one of the best ways to teach people how to think of new ways to solve problems. Children learn that there is more than one way to solve a problem when they work on hands-on activities that are based on the real world.

Children are given time to think about things.

When students learn, they can activate more parts of their brains and make stronger connections to the material if they combine real-world experiences with abstract ideas and then think about what happened as a result.

They are told to think about how what they did affected the problem and how their results might have differed from those of others. Because of this research, they have a better idea of how the knowledge they already have can be used in many different ways.

Students’ blunders become important experiences.

As students take part in activities that require them to use their hands, they will learn that some methods work better than others.

Chinese students studying in a library.

They get rid of the strategies that don’t work, but what is usually considered a “failure,” trying something and then giving up on it, is an important part of learning something new. Students learn not to be afraid of making mistakes and instead to learn from them.

Many teachers say that their students’ attitudes toward learning have improved.

The goal of experiential education is to get students emotionally invested in what they are learning, as well as improve their knowledge and skills. If students are given chances to participate in the learning process, they may feel more satisfied with their learning.

What is the role of students in experiential learning?

What role do students play in the process of learning through experience? Learning through experience is a teaching approach that involves students in hands-on, real-world experiences rather than just passive learning from a textbook or lecture.

In this approach, students take an active role in their own learning process, which can lead to deeper understanding and increased engagement.

The role of students is crucial, as they are the ones who engage in the activities and projects that make up the learning experience.

By taking an active, engaged, and reflective approach to their learning, students can gain a range of benefits, including increased knowledge and skills, improved critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, and enhanced motivation and confidence.

Here are some key aspects of the role of students in learning through experience:

Active Participation

In learning through experience, students are expected to be active participants in the learning process. This means engaging with the material, asking questions, and taking an active role in the learning experience.

By doing so, students can gain a deeper understanding of the material and develop critical thinking skills that will serve them well in their future studies and careers.

Reflection

After participating in an experiential learning activity, students are typically asked to reflect on their experiences. This reflection can take many forms, from written essays to group discussions, and helps students to consolidate their learning and identify areas for improvement.

By reflecting on their experiences, students can gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their learning process, which can help them be more effective learners in the future.

Ownership

Learning through experience encourages students to take ownership of their learning. This means setting goals, making choices about how to approach the experience, and reflecting on their progress along the way.

By taking ownership of their learning, students can become more self-directed and motivated, which can lead to greater engagement and better outcomes.

Collaboration

Many activities involve group work or collaboration with others. Students are expected to work effectively with their peers, communicate their ideas, and contribute to the overall success of the project.

By collaborating with others, students can develop teamwork and communication skills that are highly valued in many workplaces.

In conclusion, the role of students in experiential learning is crucial to the success of the approach. By taking an active, engaged, and reflective approach to their learning, students can gain a range of benefits that will serve them well in their future studies and careers.

Through active participation, reflection, ownership, and collaboration, students can develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are essential for success in today’s rapidly changing world.

If you’re a student who is considering colleges that offer flexible learning options, then booking an initial consultation with AdmissionSight is the perfect next step!

We offer expert guidance and support throughout the college admissions process and have extensive experience working with students who are seeking flexible learning opportunities. So don’t wait – book your initial consultation today!

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