Highlighting how students most effectively learn through experience, experiential learning theory is well-known for its application to higher education teaching and learning, and the facilitation of educational experiences both within and beyond the classroom.
Experiential learning is considered the specific process by which a student acquires knowledge or meets learning goals through experience.
Whereas, experiential education refers to the pedagogically grounded development and facilitation of the learning experience.
THIS RESOURCE INCLUDES INFORMATION ON:
- The pedagogical foundations of experiential learning and Kolb’s experiential learning theory.
- Alternative theories that can be applied to enhance the quality of student experience.
- Quality criteria for facilitating student’s learning through experience.
THE CONCEPT OF DELIBERATE EXPOSURE AND PRACTICE IN INFLUENCING HIGHER ORDER THOUGHT, LEARNING, AND DEVELOPMENT DATES BACK TO THE EARLY WORK OF PLATO AND ARISTOTLE.
The Pedagogy of Experiential Learning Philosophies
EARLY EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING PHILOSOPHIES
EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING IN HIGHER EDUCATION
INTRODUCTION TO EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING
EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING IS “THE PROCESS WHEREBY KNOWLEDGE IS CREATED THROUGH THE TRANSFORMATION OF EXPERIENCE” (KOLB, 1984).
SIMPLY EXPERIENCING SOMETHING IS NOT ENOUGH.
SIX CORE TENETS OF EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING THEORY
CYCLE OF LEARNING
LEARNING STYLE MODEL
LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT
THREE STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT:
Other Pedagogical Approaches to Experiential Learning
There are a wealth of other theories on how students learn through experience.
This section includes a brief reference to other popular learning theories commonly applied to student’s higher education learning experiences, including:
SITUATED LEARNING THEORY
Situated learning theory emphasizes the role that environment and context play in conditioning learning and knowledge.
SERVICE LEARNING THEORY
The intent of service learning and community-engaged learning is to ensure equal focus on both the community-identified need being addressed and the learning that is occurring.
Workplace pedagogy defines the quality of learning in the workplace as based on participation in workplace activities, guidance by others at work, and the intentional guidance of workplace learning for transfer.
THE THREE PLANES OF WORKPLACE PEDAGOGIC PRACTICE:
OTHER LEARNING THEORIES
There are many other pedagogical approaches that can be used to facilitate students’ learning through experience. See the image below for a snapshot into some of these approaches.
ENHANCING THE EDUCATIONAL QUALITY OF STUDENT EXPERIENCE
The quality criteria by which you assess an experience depends on the theoretical grounding applied to how student learning is most effectively facilitated through experience and the broader purpose of the experience itself.
Based on the collective literature on student learning and experience, the following general recommendations have been proposed for enhancing the educational quality of student experience:
- Set learning outcomes and a plan to achieve them.
- Engage students in authentic hands-on activity.
- Take time to reflect.
- Connect the practice with previous [classroom] learning.
- Encourage students to experiment and try new things.
- Build in opportunities for feedback and evaluation.
- Consider the accessibility and inclusivity of the learning environment.
(Stirling & Kerr, 2016)
Kolb’s experiential learning theory suggests the following four learning modes must be addressed in order for learning to be most effective:
- Hands on experience
- Connection to previous learning
- Experimentation/trying new things
There are many other learning theories that can be applied to facilitate students’ learning through experience.
Experience is not automatically educational. Deliberate focus must be paid to enhancing quality.
References and Acknowledgements
Billett, S. (2002). Toward a workplace pedagogy: Guidance, participation, and engagement. Adult Education Quarterly, 53(3), 27-43. DOI: 10.1177/074171302237202.
Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., Guido, F. M., Patton, L. D., & Renn, K. A. (2010). Student development in college: theory, research, and practice. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
Furco, A. (1996). Service Learning: A Balanced Approach to Experiential Education. In Campus Contact’s Introduction to Service Learning Toolkit. Providence, RI: Campus Contact.
Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Rogers, R. R. (2001). Reflection in higher education: A concept analysis. Innovative Higher Education, 26, 37 – 57.z
Stein, D. (1998). Situated Learning in Adult Education. ERIC Digest No. 195. Retrieved from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED418250.pdf
Stirling, A., & Kerr, G. (2016). Getting coffee versus getting a high-quality work integrated learning experience: Do’s and don’ts for student success. Educated Solutions Magazine (Issue 10, pg. 8-11), Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance.
Stirling, A., Kerr, G., Banwell, J., MacPherson, E., & Heron, A. (2016). A Practical Guide for Work-integrated Learning. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. Retrieved from http://www.heqco.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/HEQCO_WIL_Guide_ENG_ACC.pdf.
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Powerpoint Version for Reuse
A Powerpoint version of the content provided in each resource section is available for individuals wishing to use this material for local professional development programming.
The resource is licensed for re-use under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License” using the following citation:
Stirling, A. (2019). Experiential Learning 101. Presented at the Experiential Learning Hub. Retrieved from https://experientiallearning.utoronto.ca/faculty-staff/plan-and-implement/course-and-program-development-resources/experiential-learning-101/