“In its simplest form, experiential learning means learning from experience or learning by doing. Experiential education first immerses learners in an experience and then encourages reflection about the experience to develop new skills, new attitudes, or new ways of thinking (Lewis & Williams, 1994, p. 6).
It’s necessary for learners to attach a new piece of information to an old one through the process of reflection and relation. According to me, why experiential learning works is because it is the process of acquiring and experience and not just information. If a student acquires new information that’s unrelated to anything already stored in his brain, it’s hard for the new information to get into those networks because it has no scaffolding to cling to (Opencolleges, 2017).
“Experiential learning is aligned with the constructivist theory of learning” in that the “outcomes of the learning process are varied and often unpredictable” and “learners play a critical role in assessing their own learning” (Wurdinger, 2005, p. 69). How one student chooses to solve a problem will be different from another student, and what one student takes away from an experience will be different from the others.
Engagement in purposeful endeavors
Let us take this Scenario to depict the third characteristics Schwartz outlines Engagement in purposeful endeavors,
How to make any activity purposeful and relevant to a learner so that he sees the meaning attached to his real life? In a lesson plan containing Math sums of addition and subtraction being taught to a 1st grader, the student will be completely disinterested in the beginning. He will see numbers and get confused. Many schools including mine would show them some sticks and do “Takeaways” for Subtraction.
In order to turn this knowledge into an experience for the learner and make it real to him, so that he acquires and assimilates this experience, the school can arrange a small class visit to the school canteen. Students can be sent with a small sum of money from home. The teacher first demonstrates how she asks for the price of the food item she wants to buy. How she then looks for how much money she has. How much she hands over at the counter and what change she receives at the end along with her food.
Then each learner goes through the experience of relating, identifying, calculating, subtracting, receiving and reflecting.
When learners go through this real life process, they not only relate, reflect but assimilate and make the experience as their own and easily grasp concrete concepts. This in itself is the process of learning by experience or learning by doing in accordance to laws of “Experiential Learning”.
Opencolleges. (2017, March 24). How to make learning relevant. Retrieved from
Schwartz, M. (2012). Best practices in experiential learning. Retrieved from https://www.mcgill.ca/eln/files/eln/doc_ryerson_bestpracticesryerson.pdf
Gollub, J. P., Bertenthal, M. W., Labov, J. B., & Curtis, P. C. (2002). Learning and understanding: Improving advanced study of mathematics and science in US high schools. Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/download/10129#