Experiential education is just like other learning processes in the way that it is best taught and understood by the breaking down into stages. Experiential learning cycles treat the learners subjective experience as of critical importance in the learning process. Experiential learning cycles (ELC) draw on experiential education principles, which are largely based on the educational philosophy of John Dewey (James 2004).
Several models of ELC are currently available ranging from a one step model to a nine-step model, just as with any new teaching model educators must research and find which one works best for which situation. In addition to the set models the great thing about experiential learning instruction is that you can pick and choose and adapt your styles to the already formatted models. It is the teachers responsibility to structure and organize (model) a series of experiences that positively influence each individuals potential future experiences.
Positive experiences motivate, encourage, and enable students to go on to have more valuable learning experiences, whereas, negative experiences tend to lead towards a student closing off from potential positive experiences in the future. ELC does not leave students descending into a completely unstructured learning environment. Much research has shown that student driven education has been attempted and was unsuccessful. A learner needs some amount of freedom to develop experience based understanding, in the same as student needs some degree of guidance to receive the most of the educational setting.
In ELC there is a semi-structured approach. There is relative freedom to go ahead in the activity and experience for ones self and the educator also commits to structuring other stages, usually involving some form of planning and reflection, so that the experience is not kept in its raw form it is packaged with facilitated cognitive thinking about the experience. Length of time spent on the stages is all up to the facilitator and the group. One can spend seconds to days reflecting and returning to the experience, however it is found to be most effective when reflection is done immediately following and experience. The model that is the most commonly used in education and training programs is the three-stage model. The three-stage model cuts right to the heart of experiential learning, which is that the experience is what we learn from and a good facilitator or teacher guides the students to learn about themselves as well as the ability to internalize the lesson being taught. The three-stage model comprises of do - review - plan.
Go forth and have the experience
Review what happened and what can be learned
Plan a way to tackle the next round of experience (James 2004)
The most direct application of this model is to ensure that the teaching activities give a full value to each stage of the process. This usually means that within a major task the facilitator will have to "chase" the learner round the cycle in a Socratic fashion asking questions to encourage reflection, conceptualism, and ways of testing ideas.
This ELC model is by no means the only model possible or the best one the simplicity of the model itself lends much to the educator to plug in what is best for the group, as well as one must consider the group they are working with, the setting and overall goal of the experience. This process is one that is done by every human alive just internally, the ELC models assist in taking it a step further to help us leave our internal system and view our education as relationships to others and aid in raising self awareness.
James (2004). Experiential Learning Cycles: Overview of nine experiential learning cycle models.
- Michael Cardus: Is an Experiential Educator, Trainer and Team Building Consultant for Create-Learning-Team Building - Headquarters in Buffalo NY