Beyond Experiential Learning Contextual Experiences Are Invaluable

Jimit Dattani, Chief Information Officer, XSEED EducationJimit, an Intrapreneurial technology professional through technological innovation and analytical approach is helping businesses to maximise today’s opportunities while preparing for the future

Contextual experiences are invaluable to broaden one’s perspective and retain knowledge. In today’s era where everything is reduced to 140 characters and attention spans are shorter due to information over flow, the theory of learning curve (graphical representation of how an increase in learning comes from greater experience; how the more someone performs a task, the better they get at it) by Hermann Ebbinghaus, pioneer of experimental study of memory stands tall than ever before. Rote learning is already being replaced by ‘Learning by Doing’ which focuses on problem solving, critical thinking and decision making; essential skills of the 21st century. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping experience and transforming it and the Experiential Learning Model (ELM) developed by Kolb and Ron
Fry in the early 1970s, is founded on this belief. It talks of

- Experience (doing/having an experience), followed by
- Observe (reviewing/reflecting on experience), then applying
- Conceptualise (concluding/learning from the experience) and finally
- Experiment (planning/trying out what you have learned)

Learning, like driving, cannot be learned by reading about it. ELM not only accelerates learning, it bridges the gap between theory and real-world, delivers exceptional RoI over traditional learning programs, all by means of increased engagement leading to high level of retention. It is important for a balance to exist between the experiential activities and the underlying content or theory for mistakes to become constructivist learning.

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them -: Aristotle”

From the point of view of educational innovation, a question exists on what has happened to it and what experiential learning stands for? The prevalent didactic stance in which teachers convey their knowledge with focus on their students is to blame, despite the fact that experiential education has its origins since the 1970s and has gone through several iterations, enlivened teaching and remedied its focus on intellectual understanding of the students. In my view there is more focus around the participant and not enough on the instructor who facilitates the leap to self-determination. Yes, it is true that in experiential learning, the learner is the self-teacher but the instructor is equally important in establishing concrete vision, providing process tools and ensuring there is engagement in purposeful endeavours. Experiential learning needs to be backed by practical learning to deliver the intended objective. Experiential learning is more that what we have seen.

Learning is an individualised process and needs to be backed by the right kind of technology to add value

“Experiential learning opportunities were the chief difference between the 35 per cent of adults who launched into their careers immediately after college and the rest who didn’t. - Harvard Business Review, May 2016”

The power of experiential learning can help develop skills in academic, social, civic, personal, ethical and career developments. In the classroom, experiential learning takes the form of inquiry, problem-based and project-based learning, outside the classroom, experimental learning takes the form of activities, in the community, experiential learning is learning through service and in the workforce, experiential learning evolves beyond jobs and careers. We need to continue to find new ways to create experiential learning opportunities and promote them as it is the new norm for the future generations. Technological innovations have lent a huge helping hand in bridging the generation gap between the educators and providing new age learning methods. Machine learning and AI can further play a pivotal role reducing this gap. Learning is an individualised process and needs to be backed by the right kind of technology to add value.

Experiential learning leverages the intimate link between knowledge and experience, and is defined by the qualities it imparts on its learners, thus analysing the process itself is equally critical. Learning analytics & educational data mining are crucial components to enhancing the quality of learning. Only when we collect and analyse data can we get insights on the problems, predict patterns and enable effective decision-making. Experiential learning will not only prepare the future workforce generations but also produce new generation of instructors to further establish the Experiential Learning Model (ELM). When it comes to the systematic acquisition of knowledge and skills, experiential learning has a long tradition, having proved itself over time to be the most effective. Change is challenging and leaders must take an active role.