Education theorist and psychologist David A. Kolb, Ph.D defines learning as "the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience." In his view, "learning is a continuous process grounded in experience."
As a parent, I repeatedly witnessed firsthand the power of experiential learning. My son learned everything best by doing. His active nature favored taking the role of apprentice, and resisted passive learning. If he didn’t involve his whole being in the learning process — including his hands as well as his mind — he struggled to be engaged, and would become bored or frustrated.
Throughout my son's K-12 education, his classes generally followed a traditional academic curriculum, with content generally being delivered by teachers, and students mostly being asked to take it in and spit it back on written tests or worksheets. He relished those opportunities where he was able to do hands on projects, participate in science labs, play music, learn how to do tech for plays, and where he was able to tell stories through film and video. That’s when he lit up, enjoyed school, and retained what he learned.
As a research psychologist, I understand that when we engage our emotions as well as our intellect, we tend to incorporate and remember things long after we experience them. It’s as if we need to give a “charge” to the event for our brains to integrate information. And our learning is enhanced when we reflect on what we were thinking and feeling during and after our experience. That’s when we are able to connect to the “real” world, as well as to our selves, and form new connections as a result. It’s when we find meaning in our experience.
Reflecting While Reading
As you begin reading Hack 7: Embrace Experiential Learning in Hacking School Culture: Designing Compassionate Classrooms, we invite you to think about when you learned something by doing it, and reflect on the experience:
- What did that experience mean to you?
- What was it like?
- What did you learn?
- What do you remember?
- How did you feel?
- What was your energy level?
- How might have you applied that learning to future experiences or situations?
I’ll be back on Wednesday to continue our exploration of experiential learning and some examples of how experiential instruction might be integrated into your classroom.
In the meantime, feel free to contact us, Tweet us @EllenFeigGray and @AngelaStockman, and/or add your voice to the conversation on our Compassionate Classrooms Facebook group.
Want to start at the beginning? Angela and I have archived all of our Hacking School Culture Book Club blog posts and resources for you on one convenient page at compassionateclassrooms.org/book-club