What is it?

Experiential learning is an approach to student learning that provides students with opportunities to participate actively in experiences connected to a community outside of school (local, national, or global); reflect on those experiences to derive meaning from them; and apply their learning to their decisions and actions in various aspects of their lives.

What is the experiential learning cycle?

The experiential learning cycle: participate, apply, reflect.

The experiential learning cycle begins with the student’s immersion in an experience. That is, the student is an active participant in the experience, not merely an observer of it. Secondly, the student thinks about and/or analyses (reflects upon) the experience, both during the experience and after it, to make meaning from it and identify what has been learned. It is through a structured reflective process that students develop new skills, new attitudes, and new ways of thinking (Lewis & Williams, 1994). Finally, the student applies the learning by using the newly acquired knowledge and/or skills to inform current and future decisions and actions.

What does it look like?

Experiential learning opportunities enhance the already rich learning environments of our schools, providing students with alternative ways of engaging in their learning by making connections between their learning in school and opportunities outside of school.  Examples of experiential learning include authentic tasks, simulations, reach ahead experiences, job shadowing, field trips and cooperative education. As noted in the ministry’s education and career/life planning document, Creating Pathways to Success, experiential learning is particularly helpful in developing self-knowledge and awareness of opportunities – two areas of learning in the education and career/life planning framework – which are critical steps that precede setting goals and making plans. (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013, p. 30).


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