Experiential learning refers to a variety of activities that are done by teachers, students and parents. It includes everything from field trips to group projects. Many teachers incorporate these activities into lesson plans so that they can cover a wide variety of topics in one lesson. For example, if a teacher wants to teach preschoolers about nature, he might plan a trip to an actual park or museum. On the other hand, if she wants to teach nursery students about colors, then she could make an appointment at a toy store to see a few colors in person.
Experiential education is all about experience and is specifically defined as “existing through reflective activity.” Simply put, hands-on learning doesn’t mean simply observing or interacting with something. It also means observing something – in this case, students engaging with an object – through their senses. In education, this means being able to see, touch, hear, smell, taste, or even touch a subject. Most schools have adopted some type of experiential education as part of their strategy for incorporating learning into the classroom.
There are many forms of experiential learning. Some of them are fun: children playing “pin the tail on the donkey” or “pin the eye patch” are just a few examples. Others are a little more serious: teachers taking real-world objects – such as a wooden cabinet – and “putting it up” on the stage or desk for the class to see. Or teachers might expose students to real environments: by taking them to a coffee shop, or to a pet store and exposing them to all sorts of weird objects. The goal is for students to understand how various objects, situations, and people relate to one another. These experiences can have an educational component, since they are directly relevant to what a teacher is trying to teach.
For business education, the most important ingredient is incorporating real-life situations into lessons. Business schools, after all, are places where people learn how to invest their money and create profits; they are places where companies try to figure out what to do next to improve their profits. It makes perfect sense then that the most important – and successful – way to learn about these practical problems is through experiential learning. In fact, it is not uncommon to find business schools offering classes in real estate, shipping, and transportation, human resources, marketing, accounting, and other areas focused on practical problems.
But experiential learning doesn’t just come at the high-tech business schools: it’s also possible to learn at the college level. Taking a cross-curricular approach to education allows students to engage with a wide variety of courses in a variety of majors. But the most successful integration of experiential learning styles occurs at the junior college level, where students are given both theoretical knowledge and real-life experience to help them learn what they have already learned in the classroom. “Social studies” and “social sciences” offer an excellent forum for experiential learning at this level.
The bottom line is that the best way to learn is to engage with concrete experience. That way, learners can put what they have learned in the classroom into practice. At the junior college and higher levels, this can mean developing meaningful relationships with people who can help a student achieve his or her dreams. At the highest levels of education, it can lead to a lucrative career and a highly satisfying life.