The power of experiential education

Vishwas Parchure, the lead facilitator and the brainchild behind ‘Diploma in Experiential Education and Practices’ in Pune, shares his perspective after the course in Bangalore.


Nearly 30 participants in Bangalore are recovering from the recent turbulence created at Explorers School CEEP 2013. Vishwas Parchure, the lead facilitator and the brainchild behind ‘Diploma in Experiential Education and Practices’ in Pune, shares his perspective after the course in Bangalore.

A diverse group of school teachers, youth workers, outdoor educators, photographers, theater artists, storytellers, corporate trainers amongst others participated in the Explorers School ‘Certification in Experiential Education and Practices’ program from the 3rd Oct 2013 to 6 Oct 2013 in Bangalore.

It’s hard for me to write about experiential education, but if I had to give it a definition, I would offer this—it’s about learning from experiences. That means helping people learn from experiences that we design for others, and hopefully some day they will be able to learn from their own experiences without your intervention. The experience itself could be a classroom lecture, or a street encounter.

On reflection and from personal experiences I would say, “It’s learning about one’s self and how one behaves and sees others, and how one responds together with or alongside others.” As a subject it’s hard to isolate it from the act of living. I would need to write about life itself!

So here is a chapter from my life, and how I think it applies.

Growing up, it was always hard for me to sit in one place, even harder to pick up a book. What I remember about schooling is mostly about how I felt about something. If I liked a teacher and the way they treated me, I learned the subject they taught. Some subjects may have been harder than others, but if my relationship was intact, I picked up whatever needed to be learned.

Experiential education is pretty much like that. It’s a methodology – the power of the engine. When the engine is running well, almost joyfully, its power can be applied in many different ways. When there is no power experienced, you can put an oil well into the engine, and it won’t run!

The power in an experience is felt when all those things that matter are put into place. At the beginning, it is the educator’s responsibility to invest her/his energy into setting things so that it helps the student learn. Here are some considerations for the educator (teacher, parent, friend, whoever):

– Before an experience, ask why you are doing what you are doing. Have a good answer, even if it is only for now. The answer may change! An experience not considered is an opportunity lost.

– Ask yourself if you are ready to engage the learner in new ways. New to you and to them. If you know all there is to know at that time, you will be prepared to engage the learner’s curiosity. If you have decided what should happen, you will manipulate the situation to make it happen. Don’t function at the edge of your ability. The student may surprise you!

– Design experiences for your audience that engage their thinking ability (Head), capacity to feel (Heart) and ability to do things (Hands). Get as many of those H’s in for a richer experience.

A training session from Explorers School ‘Certification in Experiential Education and Practices’ program

– Make experiences meaningful for the audience you work with. Start from where they are in their understanding of things. Any curriculum is designed for what could be done, not what needs to be done in the here and now. It is hard to argue when something is ‘meaningful’ to us.

– A rich experience must engage their inherent curiosity to find out why. Encourage questions and exploration. That way whatever they find out will be theirs. When they tire, point them to a book.

– Allow time to reflect, and challenge their thinking. Everyone has an idea about everything that they experience. Plug in moments for silence. The brain works in mysterious ways! Gather and dialogue about things – immediate experiences, matters of the past and possibilities for the future.

– Make connections between contrived experiences and the reality of life. Otherwise it becomes a ‘mindless activity’ as John Dewey says.

That is experiential education! To invite learners into a space they have never been to, so that they sense some uncertainty; A state of disequilibrium in which they see that old answers cannot satisfy the present condition, yet feeling safe enough to try new ways and maybe new answers!


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vishwas is one of the pioneers in the application of experiential education in the country and brings close to three decades of professional experience in this field. He underwent training at the Brathay Hall Trust, UK more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vishwas is one of the pioneers in the application of experiential education in the country and brings close to three decades of professional experience in this field. He underwent training at the Brathay Hall Trust, UK more

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