It's too easy to point out Confucius' saying that ends with "I do and I understand". But it's also true! Learners must be highly involved in experiential teaching strategies to be successful 21st century citizens.

What the word sounds like: experience. That is creating active participatory lesson segments that involve and actuate the participants to have an actual role in the lesson’s outcome.

So that that “Madison Avenue Flim-Flam” lesson so characterized by my long ago Fred Flinstone supervisor was exactly what I am referring to; i.e. “where students have an actual role in the lesson’s outcome.” As reminder, in that lesson, students “tried” a literary character as a traitor for having saved a Tory from tarring and feathering. The students decided Oliver Wiswell’s guilt or innocence! In fact the verdict varied from class to class and made for some good comparisons, I later heard, in the student cafeteria of all places. Think about it, students actually talking about their lessons and learnings over cafeteria pizza.

Experiential also speaks to other learning strategies. The best perhaps being field trips, real and now, thanks to technology, virtual, where students go to Gettysburg; students go to the Statue of Liberty, students go to Ellis Island; go to the local museum.

Think about it. The good teacher will always BRIEF the class on the particulars of the trip. The organizational as in “bring your lunch or money for souvenirs”, and coming and going details for parents done, the good teacher will spend considerable time preparing her class about

– what to look for

– what to enjoy

– how to engage the “content “

That’s called Briefing and I guess a good analogy would be a military mission. Sergeant Smith says ” Take out that machine gun nest.” If the goal is planned properly the soldiers will be given all of what they need to know, the equipment, maps, and strategies necessary for success. Then, if successful, the officers will Debrief to find out what worked, what didn’t work, how to make the next mission better, etc.

Here is another tortured metaphor. My wife always insists that the sink sponge be kept in the same spot out of the sink, NEVER in the sink! I’ve been known to stumble around in the morning before the caffeine kicks in and to spill a glass of orange juice or two. Of course I then look for the sponge to sop up the evidence. The sponge invariably is dried up and kind of “scuzzy” until I begin to put it into the juice to absorb it. Then, I go to the sink, squeeze said sponge in order to wring out its contents in order to soak up more juice.

Think of the debriefing of any experiential activity as where you as teacher-facilitator, must use your students brains-as-sponges, i.e.,  drop / put these into the juices of the teaching experiences so that they transform from dried up scuzzy and spare organs, to soaked, swollen with new learning, concepts, and processes that they have absorbed through the activity.

So in the end, experiential strategies are DOING activities, that purposefully give over at least some of the responsibility for the learning outcome back to the learners.

It’s easier to say what they are not! They are not

– lecture

– workbook

– dittoes

In other words they are NOT what many teachers customarily characterize as their dominant teaching styles.

Next post. When, where to use and not to use experiential teaching and why teachers may choose NOT to use them.


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