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Experiential learning

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 3 months ago


All learning is experiential but some experiential contexts are much richer in the potential to engage learners in finding things out and making sense for themselves. Compare for example a didactic lecture with no attempt to actively involve students in discussing what is being transmitted with a student engaged in an independent field-based investigation in a challenging problem working environment. In learning for a complex world we cannot ignore the former, because there is a very necessary place for this type of learning activity but surely we must also give due consideration to the later because the later is much closer to ‘real world’ learning situations.

Immersive experienceare a particular category of experience-based learning with characteristics that are particularly favourable for the development of the insights, dispositions and capabilities for working with complexity.

Rich experiences for learning are essential to enable learners to gain the insights and experiences of learning necessary for the complex situations and problem working they will encounter in the world outside the university. 


Experiential learning appears to require

Experience-based learning.pdf (Andresen et al 1995)


Involvement of the whole person—intellect, feelings and senses. For example, in learning through role-plays and games, the process of playing or acting in these typically involves the intellect, some or other of the senses and a variety of feelings. Learning takes place through all of these.


Recognition and active use of all the learner's relevant life experiences and learning experiences. ie the experience provides a context and reason for connecting and integrating past and emergent knowledge. Where new learning can be related to personal experiences, the meaning thus derived is likely to be more effectively integrated into the learner's values and understanding.


Continued reflection and sense making of earlier experiences in order to add to and transform them into deeper understanding. This process lasts as long as the learner lives andhas access to memory. The quality of reflective thought brought by the learner may be of greater significance to the eventual learning outcomes than the nature of theexperience itself.


Eisner (1993, pp. 226-232) provides a framework for evaluating experiential learning that forms part of a formal assessment. Evaluation tasks should:

(1) reflect real world needs, by increasing students' problem-solving abilities and ability to construe meaning;

(2) reveal how students solve problems, not just the final answer, since reasoning determines students' ability to transfer learning;

(3) reflect values of the intellectual community from which the tasks are derived, thus providing a context for learning and enhancing retention, meaning, and aesthetic appreciation;

(4) not be limited to solo performances, since much of life requires an ability to work in cooperation with others;

(5) allow more than one way to do things or more than one answer to a question, since real-life situations rarely have only one correct alternative;

(6) promote transference by presenting tasks that require students to intelligently adapt modifiable learning tools;

(7) require students to display an understanding of the whole, not just the parts;

(8) allow students to choose a form of response with which they are comfortable.


These conditions and learner responses embody many of the attributes that might be associated with an experiential learning environment capable of supporting learning for a complex world.



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