What is Experiential Learning and How Does it Benefit Students?

When teachers are committed to encouraging their students to become lifelong learners, they know that they have to take their lesson plans beyond defining key terms, memorising facts and reiterating information that was read in a textbook. Instead, they have to support their students in forming personal connections to the material that they are learning. One of the best ways to do this is through experiential learning.

What is Experiential Learning?

Experiential learning is a form of learning that allows the student to connect with the material on a personal level and experience it for themselves. Teachers who practise experiential learning know that this educational model requires students to be curious and self-motivated, and also requires students to perform regular self-assessments. Hands-on learning is the anchor of this type of educational model, and most lessons will involve some type of skills-based learning or hands-on activity.

The Four Stages of Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle

  • Concrete Experience — This is the first stage of the cycle, in which the student actively participates in the learning experience, which may include a hands-on activity or a field trip.
  • Reflective Observation — During this stage, the student is encouraged to look back on the learning experience that they enjoyed.
  • Abstract Conceptualisation — The third stage requires students to take their activity one step further, and develop a theory or conceptualise a model based on what they experienced.
  • Active Experimentation — The final stage requires students to test the theory or model that they created.

Benefits of Experiential Learning

When teachers combine experiential learning activities and employ Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle, their students enjoy many different benefits. Not only is experiential learning advantageous for academic growth and progress, but it also helps students develop the important 21st-century skills that they will need to succeed in a global economy.

These are just a few of the benefits that students realise from experiential learning:

  • Students are able to connect the material that they are studying to the world around them. Experiential learning allows them to understand how they will be able to use this information moving forward.
  • Through experiential learning, students become more creative and innovative. They actively look for ways to apply their knowledge and test their own theories.
  • In hands-on learning environments, students are able to make plenty of mistakes and learn from them. They discover that by testing their own theories, they will make mistakes and subsequently revise their theories in order to accommodate what they have learned.
  • Experiential learning requires students to collaborate with one another and discuss their findings, and these are critical skills that they will need as they grow older.

Creating a Mindset Shift for Students through Experiential learning

As the frequently-quoted saying goes, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Experiential learning allows students to shift their mindset when it comes to their academic progress. They discover that the point of going to school and being part of a classroom is not to memorise facts and figures. They realise that the purpose of their educational journey is to continuously grow, develop and make connections to the world around them. Experiential learning not only focuses on acquiring knowledge, but it also prioritises character development, problem-solving and deeper levels of learning.

At One World International School, experiential and inquiry-based learning are at the centre of our curriculum. We believe that experiential learning allows students to remain at the centre of the learning process. We have seen firsthand the numerous benefits that students enjoy when they receive an education that is rooted in inquiry and first-hand experience.

Our students in primary school and secondary school are required to complete project-based assignments that naturally lead to discussion and collaboration. They spend their days at school working inside open concept classrooms and exploring outdoor learning areas. In addition, they are given many opportunities to experience their lessons in the real world through community engagement initiatives and field trips.

For more information about experiential learning at OWIS, contact us today.

Please note: All the images in this blog were taken in pre-Covid times.

(This blog was originally written in collaboration with Mr Ong Jun Liang (Ryan), former Maths Teacher, OWIS Nanyang.)