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Experiential education

Experiential education is a philosophy of education that describes the process that occurs between a teacher and student that infuses direct experience with the learning environment and content. The term is not interchangeable with experiential learning; however experiential learning is a sub-field and operates under the methodologies of experiential education. The Association for Experiential Education regards experiential education as "a philosophy that informs many methodologies in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values, and develop people's capacity to contribute to their communities." Experiential education is the term for the philosophy and educational progressivism is the movement which it informed.

John Dewey was the most famous proponent of experiential education, writing Experience and Education (1938). It expressed his ideas about curriculum theory in the context of historical debates about school organization and the need to have experience as central in the educational process; hence, experiential education is referred to as a philosophy. Dewey's fame during that period rested on relentlessly critiquing public education and pointing out that the authoritarian, strict, pre-ordained knowledge approach of modern traditional education was too concerned with delivering knowledge, and not enough with understanding students' experiences.

Dewey's work influenced dozens of other prominent experiential models and advocates in the later 20th century, including Foxfire,service learning,Kurt Hahn and Outward Bound, and Paulo Freire. Freire is often cited in works on experiential education. He focused on the participation by students in experience and radical democracy, and the creation of praxis among learners.

  • Outdoor education uses organized learning activities that occur in the outdoors, and uses environmental experiences as a learning tool.
  • Service learning is a combination of community service with stated learning goals, relying on experience as the foundation for meaning.
  • Cooperative learning alters homogeneous groupings in order to support diverse learning styles and needs within a group.
  • Active learning, a term popular in US education circles in the 1980s, encourages learners to take responsibility for their learning, requiring their experience in education to inform their process of learning.
  • Environmental education is based in educating learners about relationships within the natural environment and how those relationships are interdependent. Students participate in outdoor activities as part of their learning experience.
  • Who took the leadership roles?
  • Did the planning process help or hinder progress?
  • Did people listen to one another in the group and use the strengths of all group members?
  • Did everyone feel that the group was a supportive environment in which they felt comfortable making a contribution and taking risks?
  • Boyd, F.B. (2002). Motivation to continue: Enhancing literacy learning for struggling readers and writers. Reading and Writing Quarterly. (18) 3, 257-277. Calkins, L. (1991). Living between the lines. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational Books, Inc.
  • Carroll, Mary. "Divine Therapy: Teaching Reflective and Meditative Practices." Teaching Theology and Religion 8.Oct 2005 232-238. 27 Jun 2008.
  • Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education. New York: Collier Books.
  • Educational Writers Association. (1990). Lawrence grows its own leaders. High Strides: Bimonthly Report on Urban Middle Grades, 2 (12). Washington, DC: Author.
  • Eisner, E.W. (2001). What does it mean to say a school is doing well? Phi Delta Kappan, 81(5).
  • Fletcher, A. (2005). Meaningful student involvement: Students as partners in school change. Olympia, WA: HumanLinks Foundation.
  • Freire, P. (1971). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. NY: Continuum.
  • Goodlad, J. (1984). A place called school: Prospects for the future. NY: McGraw Hill.
  • Hampton, Scott E. "Reflective Journaling and Assessment." Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education & Practice 129.Oct 2003 186-189. 27 Jun 2008
  • Kelly, Melissa. "Journals in the Classroom." Secondary Education 27 Jun 2008
  • Ketch, Ann. "Conversation: The Comprehension Connection". The Reading Teacher. 59 (1): 8–13. doi:10.1598/RT.59.1.2. 
  • Kielsmeier, J., & Willits, R. (1989). Growing hope: A sourcebook on integrating youth service into the curriculum. St. Paul, MN: National Youth Leadership Council, University of Minnesota.
  • Knoll, Michael (2011) School Reform Through „Experiential Therapy“: Kurt Hahn - An Efficacious Educator. Eric-online document 515256
  • Kraft, D., & Sakofs, M. (Eds.). (1988). The theory of experiential education. Boulder, CO: Association for Experiential Education.
  • Kremenitizer, Janet Pickard. "The Emotionally Intelligent Early Childhood Educator: Self-Reflective Journaling." Early Childhood Education Journal 33.August 2005 3-9. 27 Jun 2008
  • Kumpulainen, K.; Wray, D. (2002). Classroom interaction and social learning: From theory to practice. New York, NY: Routledge-Falmer.
  • Nelson, G.Lynn. Writing and Being Embracing your Life through Creative Journaling. Revised and Updated. Maui, Hawaii: Inner Ocean Publishing, Inc, 2004.
  • Rohnke, K. (1989). Cowstails and cobras II. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.
  • Rolzinski, C. (1990). The adventure of adolescence: Middle school students and community service. Washington, DC: Youth Service America.
  • Sizer, T. (1984). Horace's compromise. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Stringer, E. (2008). Action research in education. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.
  • Stringer, E., Christensen, L.M., & Baldwin, S.C. (2009). Integrating teaching, learning, and action research: Enhancing instruction in k–12 classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
  • Wigginton, E. (1985). Sometimes a shining moment: The Foxfire experience. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday.


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