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Learning + Experience = Experiential learning

Sunita Phadnis

Head - Teacher Education Research, Prayoga, Bengaluru

sunita.phadnis@prayoga.org.in


The buzzword in the world of academia is “Experiential learning”. It is not a new phenomenon but the spotlight on it is because of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020’s directives on pedagogy and the teaching-learning process. The NEP 2020 mandates that the experiential learning pedagogy will be adopted across subjects in the middle and secondary grades. The emphasis is on learning by doing which will make learning fun and interactive.



The experiential learning pedagogy provides scope for exploration, analysis, critical thinking, and problem-solving in the classrooms. Moreover, experiential learning encourages questioning in the classroom satiating the insatiable and inculcating curiosity among children.


Learning is “a process that leads to change, which occurs as a result of experience and increases the potential for improved performance and future learning”. (Ambrose et al, 2010, p.3)


Experiences Leading to Learning

Experience is defined as an act, an event, a happening, something one undergoes. It is personal and conscious. Imagine you and your friend are eating a mango. What is the experience of eating a mango? You might feel it as heavenly, you enjoy the taste and smell and the sweetness of it. But your friend may feel eating mango is a messy job. She may watch you with glee. There is learning in both instances; one of enjoyment of eating fruits and another maintaining hygiene even while eating fruits. It depends on our perception of the event which aids practical knowledge or skill either directly or by observation.



Can experiences be good or bad? How can experiences have a positive or negative effect? The answer depends on an individual’s perception. You may see a beautiful moonrise and enjoy it if you are happy, yet the same moonrise may become an irritant if you have fought with someone. Another person may look at the moon and have many questions, why does the moon look so beautiful? What makes it glow, and how does it change shape? Therefore, one’s emotions drive perceptions. Experience is a deep happening and all experiences lead to learning making it a precious learning tool.




The Art of Learning

Learning is a process of reflecting on one’s experience. It is not just the change in behavior but also the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Learning is based on the involvement of a person and engagement with what is happening. Learning is like a banking concept. Our brain is the knowledge bank. It allows deposits in large measure both consciously and unconsciously. Every thought, action, and event is processed from different perspectives and the repository of concepts is enriched. But funnily it allows withdrawal in installments. Learning is based on prior experiences. Learning can take place anywhere. Learning has no boundaries. Learning is intentional, conscious, and subjective.



Take a deep breath and now think of your favorite place or food, or person. Focus on your thoughts and feelings. Become aware of what you are experiencing. All the thoughts are triggered by your prior knowledge, your imagination, your senses, and the connections you make every second of your life. Brains processes information fast and creates these wonderful folders into which systematically it stores all the information.


Learning is more than a cognitive process as believed earlier. It is social and emotional and building conceptual structures. Learning is a lifelong process and involves mistakes, failures and success all alike. Most importantly, learning is not the prerogative of the intelligent.


The Four Pillars of Education

In 1996, The Delors Report, established four pillars of learning, which is widely used in today’s education systems across the world.


  1. Learning to know: We should know how to learn. We should acquire facts, and concepts to have a piece of strong foundational knowledge.

  2. Learning to do: Apart from acquiring knowledge, it is important to apply the learnt knowledge in a new situation, context, and in real life. We should develop competence in what we learn- a skill or behavior.

  3. Learning to live together: We are all part of the community. We need to be caring citizens and help in the community. We have to develop interdependence yet live independently. We have to develop good interpersonal skills and be respectful, resolve conflict and contribute to the welfare of the community

  4. Learning to be: Each one is unique and has tremendous potential. We are responsible for realizing that potential and being the best version of ourselves that we can be.


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