What is Experiential Education?

Experiential Education is the process which takes place between the teacher and student when the direct experience, the learning content, and the learning environment all combine. The theory provides that the learner is the one constructing the knowledge. The student is then able to develop their skills and understanding through an active involvement in their learning.

Constructed by John Dewey, experiential education came to be after grotesque dissatisfaction with authoritarian teaching methods which supplied little knowledge with even littler understanding from the teacher about the students' experiences. The major concept behind experiential education is that the experience of learning is key to free thinking and a solid educational experience.

To obtain said education experience, the experience must have continuity as well as interaction. Continuity covers the idea that students continue to learn and expound upon what they have already learned. Interaction encompasses the moment when the educational experience fulfills the needs or goals of an individual student. Dewey's definition of experiential education is careful to disregard mis-educative and non-educative experiences. The former is when the educational experience actually hinders the student from further growth. The latter is when the student does not personally reflect and therefore does not grow.

Lesson plans would include students' experiences, with worksheets in the form of journals. Classroom activities would typically include personal journals. The theory behind text-related journals and personal journals both in the classroom and for homework states that through this method of learning students would become more self-aware, taking active interests in their learning, while also relating things they learned in the classroom to personal experiences.

Students are generally asked to reflect upon something they watched, read, heard. They complete this for homework if it is not completed before class ends. Then for the beginning of class, students do a free write to clear their minds and recall concepts they learned recently. They can write or draw pictures of how they feel or what they are thinking. Teachers are then able to view the reflections, forming a rubric based on the class' average understanding of the material. These teacher resources provide insight into how their students have learned to solve problems, to rectify any older personal issues, personally grow and develop, form personal goals and maintain said goals, as well as reviewing their own relationships not only to people but to the world and concepts within the world.

Experiential education is not simply a classroom curriculum, but often integrated into after-school programs where the aforementioned methods are used. Using the surrounding environment is another activity wherein the students learn outside as a group, aiding in their educational experience as reflection upon their relationship to nature.

The major alterations between traditional roles of teachers and students within experiential education fall into the students' participation within the activities and their personal voice being the main discourse for learning, as opposed to merely the teacher lecturing or telling the students how to think and understand and what specifically to understand. It is often referred to as a democratic method where the usurpation of authority is rare, since authority is shared equally between students and teachers.

More Information On Experiential Education

  1. Alliances Abroad
  2. Association for Experiential Education
  3. Changing Schools through Experiential Education
  4. Experiential Learning in Higher Education: Linking Classroom and Community
  5. Experiential Learning of Mathematics: Using Manipulatives
  6. Improving Evaluation in Experiential Education
  7. Living Values: An Educational Program
  8. National Society For Experiential Education
  9. Outdoor, Experiential, and Environmental Education: Converging or Diverging Approaches?
  10. Therapeutic Uses of Outdoor Education