Aristotle once said,
For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.
We have all been students and learners, but although studying and learning may appear identical at first glance, were the experiences the same? As students, we are engaged in learning mostly through books and practice exercises on paper, with the application of concepts learnt confined to examinations and experiments conducted in an academic environment.
There is a stark difference in our approach when learning skills for our personal interests or work; we are shown demonstrations, which we then mimic. After much practice and trial-and-error, we gain mastery of these skills, which we may modify and apply to suit different scenarios.
Educators and psychologists after Aristotle have made similar observations that it is in doing where we truly learn. Many education hypotheses have proposed arguments in this vein, chief being various learning styles theories that promote the concept of individuals having preferred mode of learning, whether it is through visual, aural, kinaesthetic or other mediums, on the basis that we are better able to process and retain information that are presented in these forms. However, there is little to prove their efficacy.
Does this mean that they are entirely wrong? Not so. Seeing, hearing, feeling; all of these relates back to experiencing. But merely mimicking or doing is not enough. What differentiates hands-on learning and experiential learning is the latter’s emphasis on reflection. By prompting students to ponder over the rationale behind what they are doing, they are then able to understand and internalise the concepts introduced, and how they can be applied.
Why experiential learning?
Experiential learning leverages on a child’s natural sense of curiosity and encourages them to learn without fear of failure, giving them the room they need to realise possibilities. In Singapore, schools are increasingly incorporating experiential learning spaces within their campuses to spark free learning opportunities. By engaging a child’s tendencies to ask questions, learning is transformed into a self-driven activity.
It is not enough for only schools to subscribe to this belief; parents hold significant power in their child’s learning journey as well. Most parents are aware of the need to balance rote learning in structured environments and a child’s participation with the world through outdoor play and exploration, so why not get the best of both worlds? In a society where success and perfection are highly regarded, it is important to realise the value of experimentation and exploration. By giving your child safe spaces to try and fail, it teaches them that results are not the be-all and end-all of learning and they have the power to change the world, if they just try.
Intrigued by what experiential learning can do for your child? Sign up for Kode It, Sparkies! 2019! The 3-day edu-experiential holiday camp, to be held in March, will teach your child coding from scratch, culminating in a hackathon where your child applies their newly acquired skills to create a digital solution. Your child will bring home not just fond memories, new friends but also hard and soft skills including teamwork and leadership.