2020 has seen some big shifts in education and as teachers we find ourselves facing the extraordinary challenge of reinventing the way we teach. For many teachers making the rapid transition from classroom teaching to online learning has been a first. This transformation brought on by a pandemic has caused many educators to examine different delivery and teaching methods.
Noticing how some students were naturally driving their own learning remotely highlighted experiential learning concepts and the question that arose was - could this be a way to help students develop key skills that will better enable them to thrive in a rapidly changing and interconnected world?
Could Experiential Learning be the Answer?
While travel is not an immediate option we have seen many schools taking the steps to actively integrate experiential learning activities in the form of future school camps.
While this off-site learning relies less on conventional assignment outcomes it encourages students to engage more with the content in an everyday setting. In a rapidly developing world, this trend ultimately shows us that there’s a wave of transformation in how we are learning and how content is delivered. By combining experiential learning and traditional classroom teaching, we have created a hybrid that has many students super excited, we just need to be intentional in organically blending the two.
Here are 3 way in which you can incorporate Experiential Learning and Classroom Teaching
Blended learning is a flexible approach to the design and delivery of educational content, and I will emphasize flexible because incorporating this style of learning should feel like a natural extension of your classroom.
School camps provide excellent opportunities to develop interpersonal skills such as leadership, social responsibility, and self-management. In terms of retaining educational content, the hands-on learning process uses concrete experience, reflective observation and active experimentation from outside of a classroom environment to learn. For example, walking around Melbourne’s former jail where students can feel the cold, the echo of their voices, the dim lighting and devoid corridors it’s a complete sensory experience connecting the theory with tangible outcomes.
Experiential learning doesn’t end with the experience, in fact, the experience is just the beginning. Meaningful change occurs when the intentional design of the content causes your students to act, reflect, think, and apply.
Teachers will always remain pivotal in nurturing a love of learning and by bringing the outside world into the classroom is just another way of inviting students to explore and enrich their learning in a non-school setting. Learning is not limited to a classroom and incursions show that valuable and powerful learning takes place in everyday situations. Incursions are a great way to complement the curriculum and may include specialist speakers, team building activities, workshops or demonstrations that encourage active participation.
The Big Issue Workshop is a prime example where homelessness is addressed in the classroom. The workshop explores the concept of belonging and challenges disadvantaged people face. The open discussion is delivered by a speaker who was or is directly affected by homelessness. A first-hand experience where students can engage in a safe environment and ask questions to develop their own views and contributions to global issues.
By encouraging students to look at a topic from a different angle you are allowing them to independently adopt their own point of view which drives them to approach a lesson or assignment in a dynamic and original way.
One of the most important results achieved by participating in an authentic learning experience is that it shows students how their contribution fits into the bigger picture. More and more schools are partnering with local organizations and offering volunteer school camps or service trips. These trips can quite literally be life changing. They also do not necessarily have to be abroad and many are finding organizations within their local communities. Participating in meaningful and sustainable engagements puts students right at the heart of a community.
I have had the privilege of designing several service or emersion trips and just a few days in, its evident that students start to try to use the local language, they notice cultural nuances, they learn about the currency, transport systems, cultural beliefs and they become more aware of how to use this knowledge and apply it to daily life.
Carefully selecting an organization to work with ensures your students bring home real-life lessons that organically shape and contribute to their broader journey in life.
There Is No Rule
Blending these learning styles does not mean you have to prescribe to a particular teaching structure, the value of including this method lies in its potential to create self-driven lifelong learners.
Statistics show that when students actively participate they are less likely to become bored and the physical experience helps to retain the content. How you decide to incorporate these learning opportunities is flexible while it does require intentional design the beauty is that it can take on any form to compliment your classroom outcomes.
I took my six-year-old son to Kenya, Africa to show him the wildlife and inadvertently ended up volunteering for an adult literacy program. We sat in a hot and dusty container that served as the community library. My son practised reading to adults with almost no literacy skills. The adults were not intimidated by a child learning to read and my son was so excited to read to an adult who was at his skill level. The point is that memorable and mutually impactful learning experiences can also happen under the most unplanned of circumstances.
Its’ no surprise that the concept of experiential learning is gaining popularity because it engages students on so many levels. It requires students to use creative thought processes and problem-solving skills. Students need to apply different techniques, interact with different people, and combined various recourses to achieve a practical outcome which is what makes this method of learning so authentic.
It’s hard not to consider adopting a more comprehensive methodology that combines the theory, the practice and works across multiple disciplines. The mere suggestion that this form of teaching will better equip our students with the skills to tackle a complex and diverse world is certainly worth exploring.
Claudine is a people connector with a passion for bringing together communities and organizations for good through travel. With a degree in global business she left her home country to travel full time with her family while working remotely, designing educational programs and marketing content for international niche markets. “Seeing the positive change that travel inspires in young people is what I am passionate about sharing, adventure has a unique way of teaching you something new”