1  Introduction


Most teachers and trainers seem to believe that you learn best by doing. But how is this rather general belief to be put into practice? In particular:

What ideas or theories are there to help us to explain and justify the belief that we learn best by doing?

Does everyone learn by doing in the same way or to the same extent?

What teaching and learning methods are there for us to use which involve learning by doing?

If our courses are redesigned to involve more learning by doing, what might they look like?

How is it possible to change our teaching to involve learning by doing when we are surrounded by constraints?

What can go wrong?

How can we encourage our colleagues to change their teaching to involve more learning by doing?

This guide addresses these questions in a direct way with straightforward explanations and concrete examples. Its emphasis is on practical teaching and learning methods for implementing learning by doing.

'Learning by doing', and the term 'experiential learning', are commonly used to refer to several different aspects of learning. This guide is not concerned with the assessment of 'prior learning': learning experiences which have taken place before learners enrol on courses and which are taken into account in the assessment of the course or the granting of exemptions from course components. Neither is this guide directly concerned with experiential learning in terms of personal development and the human potential and growth movements. Although aspects of personal development, such as the growth of autonomy, are important to learning by doing, it is a massive and separate topic and deserves its own separate guide.



The guide is written to be used as a resource rather than as a book to be read right through. Sections 4 and 5 are full of practical ideas for teaching methods and course designs and are meant to be dipped into. Sections 2 and 3 provide the underlying ideas and Section 6 provides follow-up information if you wish to apply the ideas.

Section 2 provides an explanation of experiential learning theory and the experiential learning cycle. It offers a way of structuring and sequencing learning to improve the effectiveness of learning from experience.

Section 3 describes the ways in which individuals differ in their preferred learning styles and in the way they handle their experiences. It explains some of the implications of experiential learning styles.

Section 4 describes a wide range of teaching and learning methods which implement each of the stages of experiential learning and which take learners round the experiential learning cycle.

Section 5 contains case studies of the use of experiential learning theory in course design and of the way experiential learning sessions are run. If you take experiential learning seriously, this is what your teaching may come to look like.

Section 6 contains exercises and materials to support staff development workshops designed to introduce teachers and trainers to experiential learning. It summarises the main assumptions underlying the adoption of experiential learning methods and lists the more common problems encountered in introducing experiential learning methods.



No it isn't! Inevitably the descriptions of teaching methods are brief and lack subtlety: sources are suggested for further reading. But reading on its own is not enough. Section 6 offers workshops for introducing experiential learning methods to teaching staff experientially rather than through passive reading alone. But it is not until methods are tried out and teachers gain first hand experience of their use that their full value can be appreciated. To learn about experiential methods you have to use them and experience them, reflect on their use and experiment again. Ideally this should be done co-operatively so that teaching experiences can be discussed. Probably the ideal use of the guide would be on an in-service teacher training course where those on the course tried selected methods out in their teaching and then discussed what happened.

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Created by Claire Andrew
Page created 10 January 2001