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Will Experiential Learning Increase Student Participation

In recent years, the education sector has seen dramatic shifts from the adoption of remote learning systems to digital resources for learning. Amidst all the changes, educators have retained a focus on the needs of learners, making their needs a central element to the fulfillment of educational goals. Experiential learning is a fairly new concept in education that meets the expectations of learners and educators by prioritizing the development of abilities and experiences.

Educators craft learning content to create engagement through experiential learning, initiate deep connections with course material, and promote critical thinking. For educators who remain reserved on experiential learning, understanding its potential to boost student participation is key to its adoption.

What is experiential learning?

Before considering the impacts of experiential learning on student participation, it’s valuable to understand how educators define it. The experiential learning theory was first put forth by David Kolb, an educational theorist who felt that learning is a process and that knowledge is built through experiences. 

As an active theory, experiential learning became a strategy for encouraging ‘learning by doing’ or reflection. In the school or professional space, experiential learning is considered a formidable approach that inspires better learning and comprehension.

How Experiential Learning Increases Student Participation

1. Experiential Learning Makes Course Content Interesting

Participation is a voluntary act, and in a learning context, interest in course content inspires more engagement. When students interact with courses that mirror their experiences in real life, they find access to opportunities for sharing their unique worldviews. Gradually, experiential learning assists learners in seeing course content from fresh perspectives that they can then apply to their learning or professional lives.

Teachers and educators expect students to plan, execute, and assess their actions in a typical experiential learning classroom. In this setting, the educator’s roles are to offer supervisory support and feedback to make the learning goals achievable. Studies show that participants receive a boost in their knowledge of content whenever experiential learning is adopted since they can confirm the theory with real-life application. With experiential learning, learning can transform boring course content into forms that learners find interesting, increasing their levels of involvement.

2. Experiential Learning Introduces Emotions into the Learning Process

We as a society often ignore emotions when it comes to education, but the reality is that positive emotions can keep students motivated to learn. Human beings are emotional beings, and our actions hinge on our emotions at the moment, from joy and excitement to doubt and fear. Compared to learners in a traditional classroom, those undergoing experiential learning get to care about the content they study. With more involvement with content, learners experience emotional connections, which keep them motivated.

A great example is when students visit various sites like museums to study. During these trips, learners get to see theoretical concepts (animal or art) in reality, an aspect that can make them undergo strong emotions. Since these students experience new emotions related to the study aspects, they are more likely to contribute whenever discussions arise. These spillover effects of experiential learning create a path to student participation, especially when they become part of the learning process.

3. Experiential Learning Welcomes Critical Reflection

In experiential learning, teachers craft classroom activities to ensure students get time for critical reflection after an engagement. This aspect is valuable for helping learners retain meaning, with studies showing that the combination improves skills and knowledge use.

Experiential learning improves student participation since, during critical reflection, learners get to ask questions, identify issues, and confront their biases. To discover solutions to their problems, these students will engage with peers and teachers to find clarity and reach conclusions. This is one way in which experiential learning fosters positive engagement from students. With critical reflection, any class can actualize experiential learning goals to teach learners how to think and do the right thing.

Final Word

Experiential learning creates opportunities for learners to gain more from the education process by making them more engaged and involved. Through experiential learning, learners can better understand course materials, expand their worldviews, gain new insights and skills, and collaborate with diverse organizations. 

With these benefits in mind, there’s no question that schools need to embrace the approach to whatever extents are possible. Ultimately, the opportunity to examine real-world situations in the classroom makes experiential learning an incredible tool for inciting student participation.

Written by Simon Riitho
Education World Contributor
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