When you are trying to acquire new skills or knowledge, the
learning process can take place in various manners. Most learning processes
today are based on theory, the practical part not being regarded so much.
Still, the best way to achieve the experience and knowledge you need is by
practicing it, not by just learning about. So, experiential learning comes with
a more practical way of learning, as through this method, the knowledge is
acquired with the help of experiences. Thus, if in traditional or didactic
learning, the student is relatively passive, in experiential learning the
student will be active, being a large part of the learning process.
The differences between experiential learning and traditional learning
By simply looking at what experiential learning is, it is
easy to tell that it is completely different from traditional learning methods.
What are the differences between the two? First of all, the learning process in
the experiential learning is faster. One will more easily remember what he or she
has done than what was learned by theory, so the learning period shortens.
Also, it is safer to learn in a controlled environment, where mistakes are
expected to happen and where they can be remediated. So you will actually get
to see what may go wrong, what can happen in these situations and what can be
done to manage them, without doing any damages. Experiential learning will also
increase the degree of engagement of the students, as they will be an active
part of the entire process. Unlike traditional classes where students are bored
and lack interest, because all they have to do is to be present, experiential
learning makes things more interesting, by keeping them involved.
The benefits and advantages of experiential learning
Experiential learning prepare students for the “real world”, by taking realistic conditions and facts and putting them together in practical exercises that fit real situations. Also, the learning process is faster and there is the possibility of being creative and adapting to meet the challenges. There is one important benefit that traditional learning is not offering, and that is learning from your mistakes. In theory, no one makes mistakes, which is not true in a real life scenario. So this type of learning will prepare the student for a wider range of issues, by acquiring a greater experience. And the chances for a student to fail in this type of learning are scarce, because the interest and degree of involvement are higher.
The stages of experiential learning
Experiential learning has four stages, each of this stage
bringing something valuable to the entire learning experience. These stages
The Concrete Experience – when the student will make first contact with the learning experience and gather the first experiential information;
The Reflective Observations – the information gathered in the previous step will provide the basis for this step, when the student will reflect over his former experiences, noticing what worked and what failed;
The Abstract Conceptualization – in this stage, the student will have the opportunity to put together a new attempt, based on his former experiences;
The Active Experimentation – and in the end, the student will put in practice the attempt formulated at the previous step, seeing for sure if this time he will succeed, or will have to go through the next cycle once more.