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Experiential learning in simple terms could be put as process which involves “Do it yourself and learn”. This process acquaints one to the practical hands-on experience and builds up the confidence which could eventually, if harnessed properly, be utilised to devise even new theories and laws. Experiential learning involves Reflection, critical analysis and synthesis. It encourages students to take initiative, make decision and be accountable for those decisions. It inducts them to generate self-awareness which is a basic foundation for inculcation of Emotional Intelligence.

Experiential learning has been as part of human learning since time-immemorial. Homoerectus honed the art of fire making via it,which ,as we know, proved as a revolutionary learning for evolution of humans. Experiential learning technique as part of epistemology has been instrumental across nearly all the fields ranging from Newton’s learning I.e., watching apple fall, eventually leading to infamous gravitation theory, to the most recent and successful economic theory, “randomised controlled trials“for which a Nobel prize was awarded to Indian origin Development Economist Abhijeet Banerjee along with Esther Duflo. So, Experiential learning rather than losing its sheen has only gained currency. Moreover, it has encouraged the governments across the globe to incorporate this learning process into academic curricula because of the vast associated benefits.

Kolb’s cycle of learning(1984) clearly explains the experiential learning process. This process includes the integration of Knowledge-gained via formal education or past experience, Activity-the application of knowledge and Reflection- analysis and synthesis of knowledge. The process is further explained in the image below

Some of the examples of experiential learning are internship, service learning, community based learning, field work, open ended discussions etc.

The need of experiential learning arises from the fact that, India, which houses one of the Youngest aspiring population (median age ~ 29 years), in the present zeitgeist, is striving to unleash itself. According to a survey by NASSCOM in 2019, India produces 15 lakh engineering graduates every year, but only 2.5 lakh of them succeed in getting jobs in the core engineering industry. The patent registration of Indians is one of the lowest among the major economies. The reason is enhanced focus on academic learning. Academic learning is a process of acquiring knowledge through study of a subject without the necessity of direct exposure where as experiential learning focuses on analysis, initiative, critical thinking and concrete experience. The need of the hour is to reinvigorate the education process by keeping experiential learning in tandem with the academic learning. This would imbibe the innovative attitude among the students and imbue the out-of-box thinking.

To achieve it, the role of facilitators turns out to be of utmost importance. The facilitators need to select suitable experiences, pose problems, set boundaries, support learners, provide suitable resources, ensure physical and emotional safety, and facilitate the learning process. They further should recognise and encourage spontaneous opportunities of learning, engagement with challenging situations, experimentation and discovery of solutions. They may help the learner notice the connections between one context and another, between theory and the experience and encourage examination repeatedly. One of the example of it is character building by assigning projects to a group of students and making them work as a team. It helps them attain virtues like, trust, empathy, efficacy, efficiency, understanding of comparison between individual identity and group identity.

To tap the potential that India possesses,Union government has brought a New Education Policy-2020, in line with Science ,Technology and Innovation policy. The leaning has been developed more towards practical exposure i.e., learning by doing. This can been corroborated by the NITI Aayog’s push towards the institution of Atal Tinkering Labs in Indian schools. These are in line with Benjamin franklin infamous saying, “Tell me, I forget. Teach me, I remember. Involve me, I learn.” This is/will encourage students to participate while learning. This change in learning process is bringing a paradigm shift in art of teaching and learning. Furthermore the industry-academic connect is being encouraged at university level to increase the numbers of technical papers as well as the registration of patents. The periodic excursions are organised to keep students updated with the surroundings and understand the real life situations.

However, there are challenges against the incorporation of the experiential learning into the general academic curricula. The major is the availability, affordability and accessibility of quality education. The Right to Education Act-2009 has addressed most of the issues but the availability of quality infrastructure i.e., schools, all weather roads to schools, primary healthcare, availability of funds and the timeliness of availability of funds and most importantly, the political will etc are some of the looming issues. These can be addressed only by good governance at local(schools), state and national levels. Most importantly, the teachers need to act as beacon for encouragement of innovative ideas among students. Concomitantly, the commensurate recognition and incentivisation of teachers regularly by the dispensation is also imperative to continue the momentum.

The way forward is to revisit the academic processes and encourage the experiential learning along with the academic learning. One cannot be preferred over the other. However, when both are kept in fine balance and disseminated, could produce the required human capital and give impetus to the growth and development of our country.

The writer is State Awardee Teacher and is presently posted at Govt. High School BhartundRamban








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