I joined AIESEC in the beginning of my second bachelor studies. After my first degree, I did not feel that I had developed the competencies needed in the working life, so I decided to change to a more practical university. I have always felt I learn more when I can explore and do it myself, instead of just cramming theories from books. But after a few months of studying and being in AIESEC, I realized how much I had learned through volunteering in AIESEC and how this experiential learning differentiated me from my peers. At the same time as I was learning about market research in class, I was able to run my own marketing campaigns in AIESEC. This really enhanced my learning experience and made me more prepared for the future.
Experiential learning can be defined as learning through experience and self-reflection. Knowledge and skills are learned outside of classrooms through for example internships, field trips, projects or field research. And it’s not only me who has noticed the power of experiential learning. More and more educators are exploring this way of learning. So why should you include experiential learning opportunities to your students?
- Accelerates learning
The learning process becomes faster, when we are more engaged. As experiential learning demands practice, problem-solving and critical thinking, our brain is constantly working and learning new things. In class it is easier to just zone off and not pay attention, whereas in a practical learning environment your students are always stimulated.
- Prepares for the real world
When learning by doing, you get the feeling of how it is in the real working world. Your students can connect the theories they have learned in class to practice, which makes it easier to remember concepts. They learn to use critical thinking and to overcome obstacles. Unlike in traditional educational methods, in experiential learning students will get to know how it feels to fail, but most importantly, how they will come back up from the failures. This will make them stronger people, who are not afraid of taking risks.
- Enhances creativity
In experiential learning, young people will face a lot of obstacles and challenges that they have never faced before. To overcome these, they need to get creative and seek for new ways of doing things. This is very different from the traditional educational mindset of being either right or wrong. In practice, there are many ways to solve a problem, and when facing the opportunity to solve one, a young person can come up with innovative ways to solve it.
- Increases self-awareness
When tackling tasks and obstacles in practice, young people can clearly realize what they are good at and where do they still need to develop. On the other hand, when they do overcome an obstacle, they will get a feeling of fulfilment, that will make them want to tackle more obstacles and in this way, learn even more.
- Personalized learning experience
Thanks to the different past experiences, everyone will react differently in different situations, having a different understanding and different results. In experiential learning, young people are also able to learn at their own pace. This makes the whole learning experience more personalized. When something becomes personal, we also tend to learn quicker and remember the information easier.
There are many ways to increase experiential learning opportunities that will make your students learn better even in the more traditional ways. For example, try bringing real life problems for the students to solve in smaller groups or organize simulations where each student has a different role to fulfil. After the task, have a debrief discussion about the experience linking it to theories that have been discussed in class. These types of activities will enhance your students’ learning experience and make them more prepared for the future!4