When we talk about experiential learning we are referring to the process of learning through experience, which is defined more specifically as “learning through reflection and doing”. It involves a hands-on approach, reflecting on learning outcomes, acknowledging subjects in the real world and an active relationship between teacher, students and environment.
The concept of experiential learning is not really new. Aristotle already wrote about it in 350 BCE in the Nicomachean Ethics, stating: “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” But the concept of using experiential learning as an articulated educational approach is something more recent. So, we at CAS Trips have put together a quick overview featuring the benefits of experiential learning.
1. Opportunity to Reflect
One of the most crucial aspects of experiential learning is reflection. Once the student has immersed themselves in an experience, it is the act of reflecting using analytical skills that will ensure a better understanding and a long-term remembrance.
Reflecting does not have to be over-complicated but it is important to take the time to reflect before, during and after a specific activity.
- Before: Ask your students to take note of expectations and their possible reactions to new activities or experiences, using learning outcomes as a prompt.
- During: Allow students to analyze actions taken to achieve the new learning outcomes, push them to remain focused and overcome problems by asking the right questions.
- After: Once the student has completed the task, ask them to refer back to their pre-activity reflections and analyze how their expectations compared to the reality. What did it reveal about them, society and the bigger picture? How can one use the experiences to improve as a student, and as person in general?
It has been shown that students think more when reflecting and asking the right questions. This results in better information retention compared to when they read the answer in the textbook.
CAS Trips has put a lot of research into the art of reflecting and has incorporated tools into all destination trips to help students understand topics covered as part of their itinerary.
Each student receives a CAS Trips Changemakers Booklet, which includes worksheets and reflection tips. These tips are designed to help students dig a little deeper in terms of analytical thinking – both throughout the trip and back at home.
2. Learning for the “Real World”
Students often complain “Why do I need to learn this? It’s not like I will be applying any of it after I graduate high school!” It is up to schools and teachers to help students understand that English Literature, Chemistry and Economics are not as useless as they may think.
Incorporate the UN Sustainable Development Goals into your curriculum (for example in your Biology class) and show how Life Under Water (Goal 14) is affected by oil spillage during a live simulation…just ensure no testing on animals please! Or, instead of using textbook case studies, play out the scenario of your students buying their first apartment in your Economics class.
It is our responsibility as educators to make learning interesting so that the students of the future can become active members in society and positively influence the direction the world is going.
3. Retaining Knowledge Faster
The importance of feeling emotions whilst learning from experience has been recognized as a key factor to accelerating and retaining knowledge. It is all about encouraging students to directly involve themselves in the experience. Hands-on activities require practice, problem-solving and decision-making.
As student engagement increases through these processes, learning accelerates and retention improves. As a direct result, the attitudes towards the idea of learning also become more positive.
4. Seeing It, Not Just Reading About It
We all remember sitting at the back of the class daydreaming about weekend plans rather than listening to our biology teacher talk about chromosome deficiencies or our history teacher ramble on about Franz Ferdinand and World War I.
Instead of reading history books or watching YouTube videos about Holocaust survivors, why not meet some of the remaining Holocaust survivors in Krakow or pay your respects at the World War II memorial sites in Berlin?
CAS Trips understands the importance of experiential learning and how it benefits students. Therefore, we have included some of the most studied curriculum topics world wide (example: World War II) and provide trips that focus on showcasing history rather than reading it in a textbook.
5. Heightened Creativity
Experiential learning involves learning through trial and error. Trial and error requires students to test different factors along the way to ensure better success. Students learn not to fear their mistakes but see the potential value in them. They engage the creative parts of their brains to seek out unique, fulfilling and possibly accurate solutions for the task set forth.
As a teacher, you will quickly notice that each student approaches a problem from a different angle, bringing out creativity and a solution-orientated approach to learning. Not only does creative thinking benefit your students and their development past high school years, it also enriches the classroom experience in the moment.
We hope that this blog post has inspired you to embrace a little more experiential learning. We at CAS Trips pride ourselves in experiential learning and would be happy to discuss how our itineraries can benefit your students and enhance your curriculum. So, please feel free to reach out to us.