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The Way Ahead with Experiential Learning

For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them”, wrote Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, somewhere between 384–322 BC, in “The Nicomachean Ethics”, one of his popular ethical treatises. Fast forward to zeitgeist, it feels that somewhere through the passage of time, the concept of experiential learning got replaced with rote learning through didactic pedagogy.

The prudence of experiential learning in this dynamic and fast changing world is more so than ever because of the 280-characters attention span thrust up on us by the digital world. Giving credibility to experiential learning are top leaders and managers who are shunning PowerPoint presentations to a more hands on approach of learning and analyzing. Without delving into etymology and taxonomy it is imperative to realize how experiential learning is the way ahead for education.

The focus of experiential learning is doing and learning, rather than learning and maybe doing later whenever one gets a chance. Traditional learning has a big drawback of not being able to blend theory with practice. Experiential learning plugs this gap between theory and practice. This accelerates the learning process by involving problem solving and decision making skills in day to day studies. The very technology, which was ridiculed heretofore, has ensured that experiential learning is done in safe confines with the help of simulation based learning. The tasks or activities of the real world that students would be subject to after completion of learning, can be learned first hand with the help of simulation techniques. Mistakes happen in real world which has consequences; but in a simulated environment, calculated mistakes and its consequences can be analyzed and understood. This type of learning ensures better comprehension of real world applications thus bridging the gap between the facts and experience.

Experiential learning is adapted across the world because of the conceivable changes it introduces in the learning process. The age-old adage, “can’t learn swimming by reading” is apt here. This type of learning manifests a subtle difference in the mindset which gets programmed to tackle real world problems with ease and a sense of ownership. It does so by active participation in the problem solving. Active participation also leads to collaboration which enhances learning experience by working in tandem with others.

The personalized nature of experiential learning, which blends knowledge with emotions, ensures that the level of retention is high. Personalized learning succeeds because of the curriculum, learning methodology and assessment. Traditional learning can be assessed by conducting tests and grading, but, how can experiential learning be assessed? Simulations and gamified assessment provides tons od data points which can be analyzed. The simulations track the participation, problem solving, decision making, analytical skills, etc. and presents a report that can be used for assessment.

Experiential learning has and will be successful in bringing knowledge and classroom to the students rather than it being the other way round. This approach is called flipped learning. By making students understand the real world applications of what they learn, or by making them practice the theory they learned, experiential learning creates a new breed that is willing to take problems head on.


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