WHAT IS EXPERIENTIAL-BASED LEARNING & TEACHING ?
The term ‘experiential learning’ is used to talk about learning that is gained by experience or ‘learning by doing’.
Fun Fact: The experiential learning concept has been around for a very long time, and was first explored in the education and learning context by educationists like Jean Piaget, among others. It was made most famous by American educational theorist Professor D.A. Kolb, who showed that mastering expertise is a continuous process of experience, reflection, conceptualisation, and experimentation.
In India, experiential learning can be likened to the Gurukul education prevalent since ancient times across India. The students learnt by performing various tasks under the guidance of the Guru (teacher). Schools across India have already been practising some form of activity and experience-based learning, but the Department of Education has taken this one step further by necessitating experiential learning including learning that has elements of enquiry, gamified, activity-based, story-based, in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), along with parallel teacher training programs to help educators understand the right way to impart such instruction.
Read more about the crucial impact of teacher training on the NEP 2020 here.
Some examples of experiential learning in the classroom:
- The Rainforest Learning Centre in the USA includes experiential education in almost all aspects of their curriculum. Their daycare and preschool-age learners are introduced to environmental clean-ups and animal adoptions, where they not only clean garbage and play with pets, but understand the results of their actions on the environment and community.
- Square Panda conducted pilot studies with our early learning system across schools in India. We provided young students with access to our early literacy platform, where they were taught to start reading the English language using stories and activities. In a period of a few weeks, with no extra intervention at all, we saw a marked improvement in the students’ learning outcomes, in skills like word reading and sentence reading.
- Mahindra International School (India), takes its primary school children on field trips as a part of their academic learning programme. Incorporated during school hours, these trips introduce young children to physical learning environments like zoos and farms.
WHEN DOES EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING HAPPEN ?
True experiential learning takes place when learners get immersed cognitively, emotionally, behaviourally, while reflecting and processing each experience, which then leads to a change in perspective, comprehension, thought, and behaviour. The next step is the application of the newly acquired learning to real-time events, turning these students into individualised learners who are well on the path to future success.
WHY EXPERIENTIAL METHODOLOGIES ARE THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION IN INDIA
The pedagogical approach that is experiential learning has the potential to revolutionise early learning, changing the Indian educational landscape as we know it, for the better.
- Future-Ready Skills: An experiential base of learning provides children with real-life experience to match textbook teaching, which can be applied to problems for more practical use of knowledge.
- Personalisation: Traditional learning in India works on a one-size-fits-all approach at present, which affects learning outcomes. With a more experience-based approach, the learning modules can be specifically catered to each child’s individual requirements, enabling better skilling.
- Increased Engagement: Fun stories, activities, games, music, and other aspects of experiential learning all serve to keep young children engaged and exhibiting high levels of motivation as they immerse themselves in the experience.
- Improved Teaching Skills And Competencies: Educators are a very crucial part of ECCE, being responsible for young learners’ development and growth in this foundational period. Personalised, experience-based instructions will help educators professionally develop at a much faster rate while strengthening their subject matter knowledge.
- Knowledge Of Experiential And Activity-Based Teaching Learning Techniques: When educators are trained using experiential methods, their capacity for imparting knowledge using those same techniques increases exponentially, improving the learning outcomes, creating a more holistic development of the students.
- Mindset Changes: Explaining to educators about various styles of teaching is vastly different from allowing them to experience it. Hands-on experiential learning activities have a drastic effect on the mindset of educators, allowing them to relate to the theory, and put it into practice in the classroom.
WHY BUILDING ECCE PROGRAMS USING EXPERIENTIAL TEACHING-LEARNING METHODOLOGIES IS A BETTER IDEA
To ensure a higher quality of foundational learning in ECCE programs across India, there is a need to incorporate the NEP 2020’s vision of a comprehensive experiential teaching-learning methodology. Here’s why we think integrating experience-based instruction into the early classroom has a higher learning outcome:
- Blended Classrooms Can Be The New Norm: Instead of rote learning and traditional classrooms, a new blended form of teaching takes its place, where digital learning is combined with physical instruction. Experiential learning will be interwoven with online learning, creating a virtual safe space for real-life simulations, increasing young children’s engagement, and overall learning outcomes.
- Gamified Learning: An educational approach to get students inspired and learning via game-based elements, gamification increases the enjoyment of learning, and thereby, retention. When backed by a research-based curriculum, gamified learning develops critical and strategic thinking, supporting students across different learning levels.
- Educator Empowerment: It’s not just students who benefit from a holistic program that teaches via experience. Educators can be trained and empowered to deliver high-quality content, develop strong subject knowledge, and polish their professional skills, using experiential teaching methodologies.
- Playing-&-Learning Activities: “The importance of play-based activities, especially for young learners, cannot be highlighted enough. This approach to learning sees children develop essential life skills like critical thinking, gross and fine motor skills, and much more”, remarks the curriculum head for Square Panda India, Ms. Neha Shah, when asked about the impact this particular experiential learning method has on early childhood education. Even the NEP 2020 itself documents its importance, by stating, “The learning in the Preparatory Class (a class each young learner will attend before the age of 5) shall be based primarily on play-based learning with a focus on developing cognitive, affective, and psychomotor abilities and early literacy and numeracy.”
This application of theory and academic content to real-world experiences within the classroom and other surroundings allows young children to learn, explore, and respond to situations appropriately. ECCE benefits from such experiential programs by promoting increased aptitude and cognitive development in the early years. India is shedding some much-needed light onto this teaching-learning methodology, increasing adaptation of 21st-century skills and techniques for a better, more literate India.
Square Panda’s foundational learning program and educator empowerment programs have a holistic approach to teaching and learning, via experiential and activity-based methodology. These research-based techniques use multisensory elements, storytelling, music, play-based activities and other experiential elements to achieve better learning outcomes and optimal results.
What is your take on experiential learning in the Indian classroom? How do you think it benefits ECCE? Comment below.