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Experience-based learning

For a learner to have a sense of purpose, they need to be guided through a journey, using place as the starting point, towards lifelong learning, rooted in passion and adventure. The learner is immersed in experience, culture & context and in so doing, develops their understanding of, and appreciation for experience.

The interplay between experience and knowledge becomes the playground for learning, raising a number of key questions:

  • Is it the learnt knowledge that informs the experience that is critical?
  • Is it an appreciation of the learnt knowledge that generates passion?
  • Is understanding the cultural context crucial for depth of learning?
  • Is it the depth of understanding & experience that is important?
  • Is it simply the experience that engages the child?
  • How significant is the role of the guide?

What others say:

“A key element of experience-based learning is that learners analyse their experience by reflecting, evaluating, and reconstructing it (sometimes individually, sometimes collectively, sometimes both) in order to draw meaning from it in the light of prior experience.”

(from IGI Global: "What is Experience-Based Learning")

More detail:

For the learner: Deep learning can readily occur when the learner engages with a sequence of experiences that helps shape their understanding, knowledge and application of learning.

For teachers: Teachers need to consider the learner as being central in their thinking and create (or co-create) relevant experiences in order to guide the learner on a meaningful journey. Teachers then create – or co-create with the learner, the necessary experiences to guide the learners to deeper learning. Experienced-based learning as a concept allows for all the pedagogic tools that are being effective in learning (e.g. PBL, blended learning, flipped learning, choice etc).

Some research:

The Essential Components of Experience-Based Learning

Andresen, Boud and Choen (2000) provide a list of criteria for experience-based learning. The authors state that for a project to be truly experiential, the following attributes are necessary in some combination.

  • The goal of experience-based learning involves something personally significant or meaningful to the students.
  • Students should be personally engaged.
  • Reflective thought and opportunities for students to write or discuss their experiences should be ongoing throughout the process.
  • The whole person is involved, meaning not just their intellect but also their senses, their feelings and their personalities.
  • Students should be recognised for prior learning they bring into the process.
  • Teachers need to establish a sense of trust, respect, openness, and concern for the well-being of the students.

Web resources:

The Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College: "What is experience-based learning?"

Lee Andresen, David Boud and Ruth Cohen: "Experience-Based Learning"

Learning From Experience: "Experience Based Learning Systems"

Laura Bridgestock: "The Advantages of Experience-Based Learning"

Application:

Some examples of experience-based projects include role playing, service learning, internships, studying abroad, open-ended projects (guided discovery), group projects and field study. The more open-ended and non-formulaic an assignment is, the more likely learners will rely on their own experience and reflection and immerse themselves in the topic.