Experiential Learning and EDP

What is Experiential Learning? 

Experiential Learning as theorised by David Kolb who was greatly influenced by the works of theorists like John Dewey and Kurt Lewis, is a learner-centric learning process through which learners acquire knowledge, skills and values by being exposed to certain new experiences outside of the traditional classroom setting.

Deceived by the name people often think that experiential learning is only about learning from experiences. However, that is just a superfluous understanding of the methodology. Experiential Learning in its purest form means “learning through reflections on doing” as stated in the Handbook for Research on Improving Learning and Motivation through Educational Games. Thus, contrary to popular belief the ‘experience’ is just a tool and not the basis of the pedagogy. The combination of ‘experience’ with reflection is what embodies experiential learning.

Experiential learning thus is a more holistic approach to learning as compared to other methodologies like cognitive and behavioral theories, the former emphasises on mental processes while the latter ignores the effects of subjective experiences in the process of learning. The theory of experiential learning takes a holistic approach by emphasizing on how experiences like cognition, emotions and environmental factors affect and influence the learning process.

the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming the experience.

David Kolb on experiential learning

Therefore, it is a systematic method that involves distinctive steps which are grasping of the Experience and the transformation of the experience. 

Grasping of Experience can be achieved through two approaches

  1. Concrete Experience
  2. Abstract Conceptualisation

Whereas, the two modes of  transforming of experience are

  1. Reflective Observation
  2. Active Experimentation

These four modes defined by Kolb are often depicted as a cycle to clearly outline the process of Experiential Learning. According to the theory Concrete Experience is the hands-on experience that is a new territory for the learner and often times out of the learner’s comfort zone. These experiences become the basis for Reflective Observation wherein both feeling and action during the experience are reflected upon like what was the problem faced and what could have been done better. Through these reflections we assimilate information to form new abstract concepts about the world or the experience, this is termed as Abstract Conceptualisation. Then the learner tests these new theories that he/she devised through reflection on the experience, this is called Active Experimentation. Testing the devised theory in a real world setting, becomes a new experience for the learner and the learner again assimilates information from the experience to reflect upon and the cycle continues. 

In-effect Experiential Learning:

1. Builds on past experiences and knowledge

2. Requires active involvement of the learner

3. Boosts collaboration and exchange of ideas and perspectives among peers

4. Encourages reflection, critical analysis and synthesis

5. Promotes taking initiative and making decisions among learners

6. Provides opportunities to engage with surroundings and people intellectually, socially, spiritually and physically.

7. Provides a platform for learners to learn from natural consequences and failures on field

8. Promotes Interdisciplinary learning, giving learners the opportunity to learn about other fields

9. Increases cultural and social awareness

10. Facilitates a holistic development of professional, intellectual and leadership skills, all of which contribute towards career development.

How Experiential Learning supports EDP?

Agreeing that design at its heart is all about problem solving, these words by Tim Brown encapsulates our argument, “Design is all about learning from doing, that’s how we evolve to the best solution.”

Experiential Learning provides us with the opportunity to facilitate exploration, discovery and innovation in real world settings among students. Making them not only more industry ready but also help them grow to become a conscious and aware designer. When we decided to start a program as such, what we also envisioned is helping students gain a broader horizon to enrich their perspectives. We don’t just want to produce great designers but also build a community of conscientious and connected individuals. 

However, in the face of reality a curriculum cannot be just based on experiences, as acquisition of technical knowledge is just as important. To make this functional and effective, we are going to combine the best of experiential learning with classroom teaching. Each journey will complement the objective of the quarter, and help students to successfully complete the quarterly project that is assigned twice every semester.