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Experiential Education, Outdoor Education and Adventure Education ????

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EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATION is 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 educators include teachers, camp counselors, corporate team builders, therapists, challenge course practitioners, environmental educators, guides, instructors, coaches, mental health professionals... and the list goes on. It is often utilised in many disciplines and settings: Non-formal education, project based education, Global education, Environmental education, Informal Education, Active learning, Service learning, Co-operative learning and expeditionary learning.

The principles of experiential education practice are:

  • Experiential learning (EL) occurs when carefully chosen experiences are supported by reflection, critical analysis and synthesis (Bloom)
  • Experiences are structured to require the learner to take initiative, make decisions and be accountable for results.
  • Throughout the EL process the learner is actively engaged in posing questions, investigating, experimenting, being curious, solving problems, assuming responsibility, being creative and constructing meaning from his/her experience.
  • Learners are engaged intellectually, emotionally, socially, soulfully and physically. This involvement produces a perception that the learning task is authentic and holistic, encompassing all senses.
  • The results of the learning are personal and form the basis for future experience and learning. Positivity encourages positivity.
  • Relationships are developed and nurtured: learner to self, learner to others and learner to the world at large.
  • The educator and learner may experience success, failure, adventure, risk taking and uncertainty, because many of the outcomes of experience cannot be predicted. Learning to handle success and failure objectively.
  • Opportunities are nurtured for learners and educators to explore and examine their own values.
  • The educators primary roles include setting suitable experiences, posing problems, setting boundaries (in some cases rigid and defined), supporting learners, insuring physical and emotional safety and facilitating the learning process.
  • The educator recognizes and encourages spontaneous opportunities for learning.
  • Educators strive to be aware of their biases, judgements and pre-conceptions and how these influence the learner.
  • The design of the learning experiences includes the possibility to learn from natural consequences, mistakes and successes.
  • Educators should not short cut the natural learning process by prematurely giving solutions. This defeats the object of experiential learning.

OUTDOOR AND ADVENTURE EDUCATION are experiences that include a wide variety of activities to provide the context for experiential learning to take place. This may range from outdoor sports to hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, swimming, diving to parachuting or climbing Mount Everest.

The outcomes of these experiences are about structured learning for the potential increase in human performance and capacity. Then taking responsibility to share /pass on these skills in order to capacitate others in our communities to enable a sustainable society.

Further reading:

Websites, etc.

  • Theory of Experiential Education
  • Association of Experiential Learning
  • Institute of Outdoor Learning
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