But what does experiential learning actually mean?
Simply put, experiential learning is learning by doing, learning by participating, learning by actively getting involved and learning by reflecting on those experiences. It is a way of learning that is growing in popularity, with many schools and universities beginning to incorporate it into their academic systems. Experiential learning has been proven time and time again as an extremely efficient way to learn, as you learn just as much about yourself as you do the task at hand.
A great example of experiential learning is David Kolb’s (1984) Experiential Learning Cycle which is made up of four Phases:
- The experience (activity)
- The reflection (what?)
- The meaning (So what?)
- The future (Now what?)
These four phases are crucial to successfully learn through experience. Thegapnz are experts in experiential learning, and this model is one we have been using for a long time and is incorporated into each and every gap program.
So, what is each phase?
The first phase is the physical experience you have.
The second phase, the reflection or the “what phase”, what happened? What did I do? What did I contribute? What made it successful? Are the questions you need to be asking yourself after completing the first phase. Sometimes this can be confusing, as you can get so caught up during an activity you don’t know how you did reach the end goal, you just know you did. The biggest “what” you should be asking yourself, what did I learn during the activity? Often completing the activity is irrelevant. What you learn along the way is what really matters.
Third phase, the meaning or the “so what” phase. So, I learned this, so what does that matter? Why is this important to know? How can this make a positive change for me? So what? What’s the point? Are examples of the next questions you will be expected to answer based on your reflection of your experience. If you don’t understand what you learned and why it’s important, then there wasn’t much point in learning it now was there?
Finally, the fourth phase! The future, the now what phase. So you have this new information fresh in your mind, you know what it means from phase two, you’ve figured out why it’s important in phase three, now what can you do with this learning? How can you use it in the future? How can you apply it to a different situation? If you did the activity again, would you do anything differently? Why? Are the final questions you will be prompted to answer to complete this cycle. Like the third phase, if you can’t apply the learning again in a new situation, or use it again, what was the point right? We always make sure you figure this point out, so that the cycle can be completed and your learning can be maximised.
Often young adults are exposed to experiences that prompt learning, but they are never encouraged to reflect and figure how they are affected by it. At TheGapNZ we provide Gappers with these necessary experiences and lead them through the process of Kolb’s (1984) Experiential Learning Cycle, these situations are the perfect environment for personal and social development.
Posted by Sophie Arundel and Shannon Stevens