Experiential Learning vs. Traditional Learning: What's the Difference?
What is experiential learning and how does it compare to traditional learning? Find out how these two forms of education relate to each other.
When you hear the phrase "learning environment," what do you picture? A classroom full of desks and chairs, with a chalkboard or dry erase board at the front? Or maybe you envision a huge lecture hall where the instructor stands at the front, using PowerPoint presentations displayed on a screen to help students better understand the day's lesson?
Both of these environments depict a traditional learning scenario. However, another option exists within the world of higher education and it is one that Saint Leo University is proud to offer students in a variety of courses of study. It is called experiential learning.
Experiential learning is just as its name suggests: learning by way of actually experiencing the knowledge or information you're attempting to gain as a college student.
For instance, in a traditional learning environment, if you were to learn how to hammer a nail into a board, the instructor may demonstrate this for you in person or show you a video. Conversely, in an experiential learning scenario, the instructor might take you to an active construction site and let you pound nails into a few boards, giving you a better idea of what it feels like, how to hold the hammer and the nail, and how the performance of this simple activity impacts the project as a whole.
Essentially, with experiential learning, you're taken out of the traditional classroom and immersed into an environment in which the skills you are learning would actively be applied.
Taking this type of non-traditional approach to learning offers students many advantages. The first is that some people learn better while being hands-on rather than simply listening to instruction or watching videos.
If this is you, actively engaging in the action you're learning helps you collect, retain, and understand the lesson more completely. It creates a muscle memory of sorts, making what you've learned easier to access once you've earned your degree and are working in the field.
It's somewhat similar to what you experience when riding a bike after not being on one for quite some time. Even though you may be a little wobbly at first, your mind will soon remember exactly what you are supposed to do, which means that you'll pick it up much more quickly the second time around than you did the first time.
Experiential learning also makes it easier for students to understand the 'big picture' of the lessons being taught. Put another way, being involved in the actively moving parts and processes within your field of choice helps you visually see how one action can impact another, and so on.
Finally, many students find that engaging in experiential learning experiences enables them to reflect on what they're learning in a deeper, more meaningful way. By being a direct part of the process on numerous levels—intellectually, emotionally, physically, and socially—it helps you more critically analyze each of its components and how they interact with each other.
What types of experiential learning opportunities exist? Though there are many, here are a few that Saint Leo University students have come to enjoy most:
Here at Saint Leo, we understand the value of experiential learning. That's why we offer so many different opportunities for our students wishing to gain knowledge both in and out of the classroom.
Can you think of a better way to learn than to be immersed in the activities you want to do for a living? We can't. And we'll accept nothing less.