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Experiential Learning – Helping young minds learn better

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Today imparting education has a different meaning as compared to the traditional method of imparting knowledge. With various options available, it gets difficult to confine students’ interest within just classrooms, writes Rishi Khemka, Chief Enjoyment Officer (CEO), ARK Infosolutions/ MindBox India for Elets News Network (ENN).

“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” – David Kolbe

Rishi Khemka, Chief Enjoyment Officer (CEO), ARK Infosolutions/ MindBox India

Rishi Khemka, Chief Enjoyment Officer (CEO), ARK Infosolutions/ MindBox India

Experiential learning along with appropriate mentoring and right exposureplays an important role to help students pursue a career of their choice and passion. This concept was not that popular until a few years ago when options for experiential learning were neither easily available nor widely used by schools. But now, technology is transforming the education industry like never before and experiential learning has become a crucial part of a child’s growing-up process. It is arguably the most natural and powerful form of learning.

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Experiential Learning leads to “Observation and Reflection”, where the learner has the scope to analyze the situation which helps to improvise. Every new attempt forms a recurring pattern of previous experience, thoughts, and reflection.

This cyclical pattern of experience, reviewing and reflecting on the experience, thinking new ways of problem-solving,  and again experimenting with the learned lessons creates what David Kolb says in his book Experiential Learning as 4-step Experiential Learning Model (ELM).

David Kolbe’s Experiential Learning Model (ELM):  

Why Experience matters – Edgar Dale’s Cone of Learning

Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience is a perfect model to understand the importance of action to reinforce knowledgerather than reading alone, which is bookish. It is a visual model composed of active involvements at the bottom and the passive involvements at the top. The active engagements include activities like doing practicals, performing dramatized demonstrations, giving a talk or participating in a discussion. The passive involvements include activities like reading, listening, watching movies, and looking at pictures.

The learning process which involves active engagement has more senses contributing to the process than passive engagements in learning.

According to one of the principles of Selection and Use of Teaching Strategies, the more senses that are involved in learning, the more efficient will be the learning. The information retention rate is much higher with active experience, approximately 80% more than passive experience where the information retention rate is somewhere between 10%-40%. However, this doesn’t imply that active engagements are the only effective way to impart knowledge to the learner. To foster meaningful learning, the stages in the Edgar Dale Cone of Experience can be mixed, and cross-connected. A balance must be achieved between the active and passive experiences to aptly cater to the learners’ need and thereby facilitateholistic development.

Experiential Learning in Education – Project based learning (PBL)

Project-based learning is a teacher-facilitated learning process where students gain knowledge and develop skills by investigating, and responding to a real-world, engaging and complex questioning or handling a challenge. The projects are centered around students’ learning where they take ownership of their learning and develop21st-centuryskills like Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Collaboration,and Communication.

In PBL, projects are framed around a meaningful challenge which is to be solved or explore answers to the questions. This leads to long inquiry sessions, where relevant questions are framed to be answered, searching resources and learning applications. The projects carry authenticity of the real-world context, which helps in empathy building. Students are the decision makers about their project, in terms of how they work and what they create. They reflect on their learning, and the project is assessed by teachers by the effectiveness of inquiry, project activities, quality of work and the methods used to solve the challenge or answering of the questions. Students review their peer’s work and use feedback to improvise on their process and products.

Project Based Learning – Students take ownership of their learning

This classroom applicable project will give a better insight into the HOW of PBL. Since the local lake is a source of much income and many jobs, the quality of the water running into the lake is extremely important. Students working in teams of 3 or 4, will examine the water for microorganisms/bacteria/virusesthat can enhance or deter water quality.

They will then investigate and explore the local watershed and select “interesting” places they think might be the point source of these harmful bacteria and viruses. They will regularly sample and test those places for various types of microbes.

The data will be compiled and communicated to the Water Department at the end of the study. Teams will also contribute to a class book on how to test for various bacteria and viruses and their functions, as well as a class video on running the various tests.

In the above project, students…

  • Got hands-on experience while researching about bacteria/viruses/microbes in the water
  • Practiced the 4 Cs of 21st-centuryskills i.e. Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Collaboration and Communication
  • Actively took charge of their learning by engaging in discussions, asking questions, exploring and investigating
  • Became the center of the process, where learning wasn’t about memorization

With PBL the teacher…

  • Guided students’ problem-solvingabilities
  • Supported their Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, and Communication
  • Provided themwith achoice in their demonstrations of learning
  • Empowered them to realize that their contributions to the community make a noticeable difference
  • Let students take ownership of their learning

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Leveraging the benefits of Experiential Learning in classrooms through Project and Design-Based Learning will help students to connect with real-world challenges. Apart from cognitive skills, students develop 21st-centuryskills fordecision-making, reasoning, reflection and interpretation that will help them to thrive in the future. Experiential Learning will help bridge the gap between the skills taught and skills required for being a part of the future workforce.

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