This text first appeared within the Educating Professor on November 21, 2017. © Magna Publications. All rights reserved.
For a few years, I’ve tried to elucidate what experiential schooling (EE) is to my colleagues. Within the course of, I usually discovered myself slowed down within the technical jargon of my self-discipline (out of doors and journey schooling) in addition to the writings of thinkers similar to John Dewey. I’m writing right here to make clear my very own understanding of EE and to current a easy mannequin that may be understood no matter tutorial self-discipline. In doing so, I’m hesitant to even use the phrase EE, as a result of I imagine it represents sound academic pedagogy it doesn’t matter what it’s known as.
From my understanding and expertise, on the coronary heart of EE are three key components: content material, expertise, and reflection. Central to efficient EE is establishing a transparent and related relationship between these three components in our educating observe; ideally, content material, expertise, and reflection are seamlessly intertwined. I think about three overlapping circles with EE in that area the place they overlap.
The normal lecture course is an instance of content-focused observe. A instructor delivers the content material, and it’s as much as college students to expertise or replicate on it. I believe it’s truthful to say that the shortcomings of content-only practices are nicely understood and that almost all academics try to distance themselves from relying solely on this custom.
A possible resolution to the content-only observe is the addition of expertise. For instance, in out of doors schooling, we would embrace a canoe journey. Nonetheless, to be efficient, the canoe journey should present an expertise through which the content material of the course is definitely skilled. If we’re educating about out of doors management, then college students should expertise out of doors management. The instructor can mannequin management, or the scholars can expertise it by main. Ideally, they’d expertise each teacher modelling and their very own management. The extra numerous the expertise, the higher. In distinction, if the main target of the canoe journey is canoe-skill growth, then it gained’t be an expertise that advances college students’ understanding of outside management. Experiential schooling ensures that the experiences are related and permit college students to expertise the content material. It’s not simply expertise for expertise’s sake.
Content material-driven programs are additionally enhanced by the addition of a reflective element. Within the case of outside schooling, we would add a journal task or embrace sharing circles for college kids to debate their experiences. Nonetheless, for this to be significant and related, the journal task and sharing circles should facilitate the scholars’ understanding of the content material; on this case, out of doors management. From an EE perspective, reflecting on content material alone with out expertise is incomplete studying; college students should have the ability to replicate on each the content material and the expertise. Once more, including reflection for reflection’s sake doesn’t enhance studying.
Though including these experiential and reflective components in content-driven programs is a step in the appropriate course, the actual energy of EE includes the intentional design of studying alternatives that weave collectively content material, expertise, and reflection. For instance, in out of doors schooling, relatively than merely presenting the speculation of outside management, including a significant expertise of outside management that features emotional, social, and kinesthetic experiences and alternatives for formal and casual (and group and particular person) reflection heightens the probability of a strong EE studying expertise.
The sweet-spot of EE is the overlap of content material, expertise, and reflection. To seek out it, academics should ask:
- What’s the main content material of the course?
- How can college students greatest expertise that content material?
- How can I embrace significant alternatives for reflection so college students could make connections between the content material and expertise?
- How can I design a studying expertise that features content material, expertise, and reflection so the content material is clearly and meaningfully linked to the scholars’ previous, helps college students situate the current, and prepares college students for the long run?
We want to remember that have and reflection are available in many types: expertise is way more than “learning-by-doing” or “hands-on”; expertise can also be “brains-on,” “emotions-on,” “social-on,” “spiritual-on,” and extra. And reflection is way more than journaling and group discussions. Boud writes in his 2001 article on enhancing reflective observe that it’s “taking the unprocessed, uncooked materials of expertise and interesting with it as a option to make sense of what has occurred. It includes exploring usually messy and confused occasions and specializing in the ideas and feelings that accompany them (p. 10).”
On the intersection of content material, expertise, and reflection is the artwork of educating. These academics who efficiently lead their college students to this nexus use their senses and instinct to craft the overlap. Educating methods (i.e., team-based studying, flipped school rooms, service studying, e-portfolios) may be very useful, however on their very own, they aren’t sufficient. We should first perceive the very important relationship between content material, expertise, and reflection after which use approach to facilitate the connection. Essentially the most gifted academics are those that usually lead their college students to the fertile floor the place content material, expertise, and reflection develop collectively.
Morten Asfeldt is an affiliate professor on the College of Alberta.
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