Have you noticed how one of the first things children learn to recognise is the sound of their mother’s voice? Ever wondered how they seek safety in her arms before they realise what she means to them? Why do we find it so easy to remember the lyrics to our favourite song but not an essay?
The answer lies in the power of our senses. Perception of our surroundings has long been the primary and most intuitive form of communication between humans. It is believed that mankind only evolved to speak to each other two hundred thousand years ago. Before that, the only means of communication our ancestors had was manual gestures. We are inherently intuitive beings who learn to share our thoughts even before we learn to form coherent sentences.
We can spend hours trying to know all there is about the Himachals, but nothing can prove more effective than travelling, trekking in those hills and speaking to the locals. Such is the magic of experiential learning. Imagine if this magic was brought to school to teach every subject! It gives me great joy to share that educators are already using this methodology.
“Experiential learning is a philosophy and methodology in which educators purposefully engage with students in direct experience and focused reflections in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, and clarify values.”
I remember when my teacher used to make us enact English plays like ‘The Merchant Of Venice’ to help us better remember the flow of events. Being made to work on open-ended experiments and guided projects relevant to the syllabus enhanced my understanding of the subjects we were learning.
While children only read out of a textbook in school, hand-on experiences like this will etch the concepts in their long term memory. It focuses more on the learning process than the outcome. It raises more questions in the mind and refines their understanding. The process engages the creative portions of childrens’ minds and equips them to face real world scenarios.
In recent years, ‘The flipped classroom phenomenon’ has become the talk of the town amongst educators. It is a teaching technique employing experiential learning where students are made to study theoretical aspects at home and perform live experiments during class hours. To prove the credibility of the same, a study was conducted to analyse the students’ satisfaction model for flipped classrooms. The results indicated that students found the experiential learning model far more satisfying and helpful than simply having theoretical learning environments customised to their needs. (Zhai X, et al, 2017).
Experiential learning need not be limited to academic aspects like internships. I think we can all agree that a teenager who has learned driving in a simulator cannot handle real world traffic. They will have to drive on the road! Going to banks, post offices, riding a bike, pottery, gardening and cooking are a few life skills learnt best through experiences.
A collective effort from parents, teachers and schools alike in incorporating creative ways of learning and engaging all five senses while doing so, is going to cause a surge in the quality of citizens we ultimately produce. We at Dheerya hope to spread the message and also inculcate the same in our attempts to make holistic education accessible to underprivileged children.
Written by - Shruthi V Rao
Edited by - Parita Shah
Additional References -
1. Nooghabi S N, Iravani H & Fam H S,
“A study on present challenges on experiential learning of university students” (University of Tehran, The Colleges of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Iran),
Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, Volume 15, 2011, Pages 3522-3530
2. Zhai X, et al (2017) “An Experiential Learning Perspective on Students’ Satisfaction Model in a Flipped Classroom Context.” ,
Journal of Educational Technology & Society, vol. 20, no. 1, 198-210 (13 pages), 2017, http://www.jstor.org/stable/jeductechsoci.20.1.198
3. Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2012). “Experiential learning”. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/instructional-guide