Experiential learning is defined by Wikipedia, as “the process of learning through reflection on doing”.
It implies an active task undertaken by a student who, then, reflects on it.
Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle is a pedagogical model that can be adopted when applying this method. The Cycle is formed by 4 steps:
Concrete experience: students actively explore concrete experiences.
Reflective Observation: students reflect on the experience.
Abstract conceptualisation: students draw conclusions a general nature exploring the theoretical dimension of the argument.
Active experimentation: students will apply the contents learned in a real or realistic context.
As result of the eLene4Life exploration, this method is going to be presented through a specific case study that includes different activities through which students can concretely experiment situations coming from real life. This method will present an initiative that includes most part of the activities listed but it is possible to apply just one of them.
No specific tools.
The method can be applied on every discipline and on learning unit of different length. This means that it can be proposed for introducing a specific argument working on it on a single and unique lesson or be used for the whole course programme. It fits very well also to empower soft skills development.
It can be proposed individually or in teams, depending of the objectives the teachers wants his students will achieve.
For example, in the experience conducted at Politecnico di Milano (NECTS Lab), this approach has been used to develop and/or reinforce soft skills for engineers to make them entrepreneurs of their research project. One example: students has to learn to present their ideas to a public with the objective to be effective and persuade your audience to fund their realization. How to achieve this result? Teacher idea is to let students present their project to companies (usually, the first time, this hasn’t been a positive experience). After that, students collect feedbacks from companies and reflect on experience (do and don’t). Then reinforce weak aspects of the performance and try again until the project catch interest.
The Lab promotes this through collaboration with external experts and researchers coming from other sectors and the ones linked to engineering, companies, etc…:
- active participation in international conferences to interact and discuss own research themes with international colleagues (communication, self esteem)
- organization of meetings with industries and companies presenting and promoting own ideas (working on self-organization, public speaking)
- organization of theatre courses to improve communication skills
- organising internships in industries from Silicon Valley or at USA universities (like MIT, Stanford, etc…)
- organization of Hackathons competition (2 a year) where participants are asked to develop their ideas (teamwork, leadership, stress management)
- the facilitation of new collaborations with experts, based on the needs that emerged from students (for example: an expert in economy to improve entrepreneurship skills; a psychologist to support stress management)
- attendance in a physical activity programme with the objective of training students at perseverance, objective-oriented, self esteem.
The whole initiative has been created with specific objective to work on the development of a “complete” researcher figure, focusing not only on technical skills but also, and in particular, on those competences that a professional should have and use during his/her life. The lab offers a lot of different activities but the method of “experiential learning” or “learning by doing” can be integrated in a course also implementing a single activity, for example organizing a field trip or a simulation in class, where students are assigned different roles in solving a problem.
There is no summative assessment as it is a laboratory and student access work on own research project/idea. The assessment is basically formative: the teacher recognises soft skills improvement by observing a student’s daily work and on how they respond to activities proposed. He and his staff, monitor students’ progress with periodical feedback meetings (weekly with PhD students, every 3 months for the other and through reports from tutors for whose is in internship).
Blumenfeld et al 1991, Educational Psychologist, 26(3&4) 369-398 “Motivating Project-Based Learning: Sustaining the Doing, Supporting the Learning.” Phyllis C. Blumenfeld, Elliot Soloway, Ronald W. Marx, Joseph S. Krajcik, Mark Guzdial, and Annemarie Palincsar.
Greeno, J. G. (2006). Learning in activity. In R. K. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 79-96). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. https://necst.it/
Our Project Objective
eLene4Life supports curriculum innovation in higher education (HE) through the development of active learning approaches for transversal skills, with the ultimate aim of improving students’ employability.
The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
This project No. 2018-1-FR01-KA203-047829 has been funded by Erasmus + programme of the European Union.