How Experiential Learning Can Motivate Students to Learn
Feb 04, 2022
By : Marielle Filoteo
In our time at school, we’ve come across all sorts of subjects, and it’s always varying how we approach them. Maybe for you, visual cues work really well to absorb the material. Or maybe rewriting your notes and making handouts is the surefire way you’d understand the topics. Basically, we all experience and, in turn, understand the world through different lenses. So, it’s important to acknowledge those differences!
But, one of the learning processes that’s combined a lot of those learning styles is experiential learning. This can be a powerful tool to help you learn in and out of the classroom. Let’s start with a definition.
What is Experiential Learning?
Experiential learning is an engaged learning process where students “learn by doing.” As the name suggests, it involves having students “experience” the lessons and reflecting on them afterward. So, instead of traditional classroom settings, they get to experience lessons first-hand and interact with them in ways that can be interesting to them.
Experiential learning can be done in so many different ways, especially when you have schools that are creative in their teaching methods. The various activities you can do, but are not limited to include:
- Field exercises
- Study abroad
- Undergraduate research
- Studio performances
- Community service
Those activities honestly sound a bit jarring, but think this: Field trips, science experiments, art projects, role-playing, journaling, video-making, and even classroom games count as experiential learning! So, maybe the next time you’re in the classroom (virtual or otherwise), this can be something you suggest to your teacher to keep the motivation up.
How Does It Work?
This leads us to David Kolb and his experiential learning theory (ELT) published in 1984. His work explained that experiential learning theory works in four stages—concrete learning, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. It works like this:
- Concrete learning – when a learner gets a new experience or interprets a past experience in a new way.
- Reflective observation – where the learner reflects on their experience personally; “what does this experience mean to me?”
- Abstract conceptualization – happens as the learner forms new ideas or adjusts their thinking based on the experience and their reflection about it.
- Active experimentation – where the learner applies the new ideas to their surroundings/environment, to see if there are any improvements to be made.
With the four stages, Kolb saw that effective learning involves a learner going through a cycle that they can enter at any time: The experiential learning cycle. It comes together like this:
But, the thing about the experiential learning cycle, also takes into mind that people have different learning tendencies, and are dominant to certain stages of experiential learning. Because although experiential learning is typically a great motivator for a lot of students, the specific activity doesn’t always align with someone’s learning style.
The four learning styles according to the ELT are as follows:
- Diverging (feeling and watching) – learners who look at things from different perspectives. They tend to prefer watching to doing, using their imagination, and observing situations before diving in.
- Assimilating (watching and thinking) – learners who go for an analytical, logical approach. They excel at understanding wide-ranging information and organizing it in a clear, logical format. They may even focus more on concepts than people.
- Converging (doing and thinking)– learners who are good problem-solvers and prefer technical tasks. They are more attracted to technical tasks and problems than social or interpersonal issues. They are also known to experiment with new ideas.
- Accommodating (doing and feeling) – learners who rely on intuition rather than logic. They like concrete experiences, new challenges, and may rely a lot on gut feelings. Usually, they prefer to take a practical, experiential approach.
Knowing a student’s learning style can significantly help choose the right type of experiential learning activity for them. Ultimately, we all learn differently! So, it’s never one-size-fits-all.
How Does It Motivate Students?
There are many benefits to experiential learning. And this goes both ways for the students and teachers. After all, teachers also learn as they teach their students. A few of the benefits include:
- You can apply it elsewhere. When you’re engaging in these activities, you get a true sense of how the lessons work in a tangible sense and immediately apply them to real-world situations — which helps to retain information better. It can also help give students a broader worldview and appreciation for communities.
- You can work as a team. Much experiential learning involves working in a group setting. So, this can help promote teamwork, communication skills, and social skills among students.
- You can make it fun. These activities can be exciting and fun for students since it’s a more active approach than passive. Learning doesn’t have to be “boring,” it can be an enjoyable experience. And this way, it can bring more passion to learning new things in the world.
- You don’t have the pressure of competition. There’s always been a sense of competition between students in a traditional classroom. With grades, honor lists, and test scores at the forefront, it can be a huge source of pressure to succeed. But here, these activities are more focused on helping students truly understand a topic.
- You can self-reflect. Every experience requires a bit of self-reflection. Since school tends to have a particular structure, these activities go beyond that. Here, students can make their own observations, understand topics in a way that helps them, and form their own opinions.
All in all, there are so many benefits to experiential learning! It cuts into a lot of the traditional structure by utilizing ways that students can actively engage with topics. There’s no need to stick to only sit-down lectures or readings in the classroom. Experiential learning shows us that there are ways to make learning effective, memorable, and overall enjoyable.
Want to experience a fun yet informative way of learning? Take a shot at our Quests, where you can read articles, watch videos, do quizzes, and so much more! All while stacking up on the rewards points.
Art Header by Shai Libunao
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