Experiential Learning as an Effective Pedagogy

Students and instructor gathered around a computer in a chemistry lab
 Archeology dig with several studies working different parts of the site.
 A student in another country with a baby elephant.  Elephant has trunk draped over student's neck.
 Two students using a large tube to draw water from an artificial test pool.
 Instructor and several students measuring diameter of small tree in the forest.
 Student holding bird with several other students looking on.  Instructor showing student how to band leg.
 Instructor and two students wearing  protective gear and looking at paperwork in a lab.
 Grad student holding large species of cockroach native to South America.
 Students sitting outside in a circle, one with drum.
 Four students sitting outside Armstrong Center at a cafe table discussing a group project.
 Botany class outside, gathered around a tree and doing an identification exercise.
 Group of students sitting outside painting pottery bowls.


Experiential learning has been used extensively and is popular in education (Bradford, 2019; Hoover & Whitehead, 1975). Experiential learning theory is reflected in the work of several scholars "John Dewey, Kurt Lewin, Jean Piaget, William James, Carl Jun, Paulo Freire, Carl Rogers and others" (Kolb & Kolb, 2005, p. 194). Kolbo (1984) noted that experiential learning theory provide a different aspect of the learning process and is different from behavioral learning theory. Kolb (1984) explained that the perspective of learning is viewed as experimental. According to Kolb (1984) experiential learning theory is viewed as a holistic integrative perspective of learning that incorporates perceptions, cognition, experiences, as well as behavior.

Kolbs (1984) further explained that learning occurs in a four-part circular model. For example, concrete experiences, reflective and observations, abstract and concepts, and testing the implications of the concepts. In another study, (Kolb, & Kolb, 2005) noted that experiential learning theory is made up of six assumptions. For example, (a) learning is a process, and not an outcome, (b) all of the learners are relearning, (c) learning involves having resolutions to conflicts, (d) learning is regarded as a holistic process, (d) learning is a result of synergetic transactions that occurs between each person and the environment and (e) learning involves creating knowledge.

Even though experiential learning has shown to be a positive pedagogy there are also negative aspects that is associated to it. Bradford (2019) argued that even though the activities maybe highly structured and emergent there are ethical questions that emerges with experiential learning. For example, students having inadequate informed choices, bias occurs in what is being covered, adequate debriefing is lacking, personal exposure in the community as well as class, deception issues, personalizing role-behavior, the impact of feedback being negative and the boundedness of the experiential activities.

Bradford (2019) explained that even though these ethical issues exist they can me be minimized by "forwarding is forearming" as well as having supportive learning environments and monitoring the personal impacts. Additional Bradford (2019) mentioned that instructors should reflect and ask why they are doing the activities and "does it meet pedagogical needs or is it for more personal reasons (to entertain, to force students to confront certain issues that the instructor values, or to raise student evaluations)?" (p. 97)