18. Learning by Doing: Experiential Learning

18.1. What is Experiential Learning?

Simon Fraser University (2010) has defined experiential learning as:

The strategic, active engagement of students in opportunities to learn through doing, and reflection on those activities, which empowers them to apply their theoretical knowledge to practical endeavors in a multitude of settings inside and outside of the classroom.

There are many different theorists in this area, such as John Dewey (1938) and more recently David Kolb (1984). There is a wide range of design models that aim to embed learning within the real world contexts, including:

  • Laboratory, workshop or studio work
  • Apprenticeship
  • Problem-based learning
  • Case-based learning
  • Project-based learning
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Cooperative (work- or community-based) learning

The focus here is on some of the main ways in which experiential learning can be designed and delivered, with particular respect to the use of technology, and in ways that help develop the knowledge and skills needed in a digital age. (For a more detailed analysis of experiential learning, see Moon, 2004).