Digital Lit. #3: Experiential learning

Experiential learning is a cyclonic learning style in which students engage in an event that is a very hands on means of learning.  Experiential learning occurs outside of the traditional classroom environment and exists in activities such as workshops, internships, and service learning, undergraduate research, study abroad, and other creative and professional work experiences.  Ultimately experiential learning is learning by doing and reflecting.

The concept of Experiential learning come from the cyclic adaptation of Kurt Lewin’s Field Theory and Learning by David Kolb in 1984.  Kolb established that adult learning is reflective based on experience which can be assessed in a summative form in facilitated environments such as internships and in a formative way by hands on activities.

According to the learning cycle represents four types of knowledge.

Forms of Knowledge and the Learning Cycle

The four quadrants of the cycle are associated with four different forms of knowledge, in Kolb’s view. Each of these forms is paired with its diagonal opposite.

 Four kinds of knowledge located in Kolb's scheme

Convergent and Divergent Knowledge

  • This distinction was first made by Hudson (1967) in terms of styles of thinking rather than forms of knowledge: convergent knowledge brings to bear a number of facts or principles on a single topic: problems have “right” and “wrong” answers. Hudson believed convergent learners tended to be more highly valued in school, because most assessment approaches focus on convergent skills. Examples include applied maths, engineering, and some aspects of languages. It is located in the quadrant between Abstract Conceptualisation and Active Experimentation.
  • Divergent knowledge on the other hand, is (very broadly) more about creativity — it is about the generation of a number of accounts of experience, such as in literature or history or art. Judgement about the quality of divergent knowledge and skills is much more difficult, because these are private areas. It is generated between Concrete Experience and Reflective Observation.

Assimilation and Accommodation

Hands up if you remember your Piaget! Assimilation and Accommodation are in his view two dialectically related processes (i.e. opposing principles — thesis and antithesis — between which a compromise — synthesis — has to be negotiated) which describe (roughly) different relationship between knowledge of the outside world and knowledge already held in our heads.

Read more: Experiential Learning
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives

Many organizations and educational institutes adapted experiential learning methods.  Some include the YMCA, Endeavour, and Outward Bound.


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