LivingWhat is experiential learning and how to promote it?

What is experiential learning and how to promote it?

What does it mean to learn? Do you think children learn best by directly experimenting with reality, or through memorizing things?

Learning is a process that allows us to acquire knowledge, values, skills, new behaviors … Learning is the result of studying, instructing ourselves, reasoning, observing and, above all, living. We can learn in multiple ways and, in addition, there are different types of learning.

When we speak of an experiential learning, we refer to that which is achieved through action and one’s own experience. But what else do we know about experiential learning and how can we promote it?

What is experiential learning?

Experiential learning is meaningful learning that is achieved through action and experience, that is, in the very act of living.

It moves away from the classic or more traditional concept of learning , the more mechanical one, which involves memorizing concepts but not living things on one’s own skin.

Be participants in your own learning

The objective of the educational methodology based on experiential learning is for children to get involved in their own learning , that is, to participate in it, as active agents. How to participate in this type of learning? Through four essential elements:

  • The action
  • The involvement of the senses
  • Reasoning ability
  • Critical thinking

Through these four elements, the child can become involved in his own educational experience, which in turn is linked to a real situation in life itself.

In other words: its objective is for the child (or the student) to be actively involved in their own learning process , that is, to investigate the phenomena or situations that they are learning and / or knowing.

Learning through experience

Thus, when we teach, either as fathers and mothers, or as teachers, through a methodology based on experiential learning, the objective is to ensure that children face learning situations based on a certain experience , that is, in the very act of living.

We know some of the advantages or benefits of this type of learning that we believe show the importance of promoting it in the classroom and at home, with the little ones:

Developing critical thinking

An important advantage of this type of learning is that, once it is promoted, the child will be able to critically analyze the learning process, in addition to the new knowledge and behaviors learned.

Meaningful learning

In addition, let us remember that we are talking about significant learning , a concept introduced by the American theorist David Ausubel, who defines it as learning in which the student associates new information with what he already has.

In this case, what the student does is readjust and reconstruct both information in this process.

Learning that is better retained

On the other hand, experiential learning is better retained ; on the one hand, because it is significant, and on the other, because the child is involved in his own learning process.

A very simple example to understand it better; Isn’t it the same to tell your child how to make a kitchen dish than to tell your child how to cook it himself? What do you think they will remember best?

“Tell me something, and I will forget it. Teach me something, and I will remember it. Make me participate in something, and I will learn it.”


Kolb’s experiential learning cycle

David Kolbe is an author who spoke of experiential learning, and who proposed a concrete learning cycle for this way of acquiring knowledge to take place.

According to Kolbe, experiential or experiential learning occurs through four specific phases:

  • The concrete experience
  • Reflective observation
  • The abstract conceptualization
  • Active experimentation

Each of these phases involves a different way of experiencing reality . In the phase of concrete experience, we speak of experimentation; In reflective observation, we speak of analyzing; in abstract conceptualization, action is deciding, and in active experimentation, it is about acting.

This is best exemplified in the following image:

That is, depending on the phase in which we are immersed, our way of experiencing reality and, therefore, of learning, will also be different. In this way, in each phase the action will be one or the other.

Four learning styles according to Kolb

From this theory proposed by Kolb, four possible learning styles emerge:

  • Convergent learning
  • Divergent learning
  • Assimilative learning
  • Accommodative learning

Depending on the child’s past experiences and the demands and demands of the environment, he will develop one learning style or another.

How to promote experiential learning?

To understand how we can promote experiential learning, it is important to know that it has three characteristics: fun, action and challenge.

Fun because it allows the child to have fun, action because it is through it that learning is achieved, and a challenge because learning ends up becoming a challenge that “hooks” the student because he wants to solve it (which takes us to the starting point: fun) .

How to intersperse these three characteristics to promote an adequate experiential learning? As we will see, this will lead us to promote freedom in the little ones when it comes to learning:

Give him the option to choose what to learn

It is important that, as much as possible, you let your child (or your student) choose what they want to learn. He himself should be the one who guides his learning (with your help) and who faces problems and challenges.

To do this, it can be useful to promote their self-knowledge.

Let him choose how to learn

It is also important that the child can decide how to learn (we insist, always with your support and accompaniment when necessary).

For example, you have to learn to ride a bicycle; Although theory is important, in this case, practice, experience, will be essential . Let him choose how he wants to do it; Maybe starting with pedals?

First on a flat road? Logically, all this always accompanying him and supporting him when necessary.

“You don’t learn to walk by following the rules. You learn by walking and falling. “
-Richard Branson-

Provide varied resources

As parents, or as teachers, we must also provide the child with various resources that respond to their different needs . Perhaps, bet on different materials, be it manipulative material, videos, photographs …

Accompany him through yourself and your knowledge

Another way to promote experiential learning is by accompanying the child through: your experience, your knowledge and your emotional support.

Do not impose on him the fact that he “needs” you, or asks you. Give him the freedom to choose but make yourself available .

Encourage their curiosity and motivation

Experiential learning thrives on curiosity and motivation; Therefore, encourage them and make your child find his own intrinsic motivation (that motor that moves us when acting, and that leads us to do things just for the pleasure of doing them) in what he is learning or wants to learn.

It is a challenge: it stimulates exploration

Tasks, knowledge or what your child must learn should be considered as challenges that require prior exploration on their part.

This will make it easier for them to take it with curiosity and also to get involved in their own learning process (the basis of experiential learning).

And you, do you think you learn better by living , through your own experience? What do you think of experiential learning? Do you think it can become more stimulating for children?

Photos | Cover (freepik), Image 1 (pexels), Image 2 (pexels), Image 3 (pexels), Image 4 (pexels)

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