01 Dec The Partnership Between Experiential Learning and Travel
By Miro Siegel
As defined by the Oxford Dictionary, learning is “The acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught,” and just through this short description we can begin to see that not all learning is created equal. Let’s begin by breaking down this readily accepted definition so that we can better understand the different types of learning.
All forms of learning do in fact share a common goal: the acquisition of knowledge, skills or abilities and the expansion of the learner. How this goal is achieved, however, can vary greatly depending on the method of education. For example, rote learning (a methodology employed by many schools) attempts to create a base of knowledge in the learner through sheer repetition, whereas experiential learning relies more on context and hands on experiences to translate into knowledge and skills.
There is also a conversation to be had about the difference between learning and education. Learning is active, something that is done and something that we are biologically hardwired to do as humans. Education on the other hand tends to be passive, more industrial and regulated and ultimately is something that is received. Though the differentiation between these two terms may seem slight, the implications are enormous when it comes to how learners use their knowledge to relate and navigate in the real world.
Approaches that are more passive and extrinsic often teach us what to think, but active, intrinsic approaches can teach us how to think instead. This difference in motivation and orientation is like the difference between giving a man a fish or teaching him to fish instead. Intrinsic, active learners know how to learn. Passive learners know what they are taught.
What is Experiential Learning and how is it Different from Other Methodologies?
Experiential learning is an active and proactive form of learning that aims to distill personal experience into knowledge and skills using reflection, conceptualization and critical thinking. This can be achieved alone, or to an even greater effect by incorporating a social element.
Personal involvement also creates context, motivation and connection with the subject matter. The learning itself becomes personal and lasting, and feels like something the learners themselves can take ownership over. An article or paragraph, regardless of what they detail, will always be in a book or an archive. A hands on experience with something is simply there. By removing this level of separation, we are able to attach ourselves to situations and make them relevant to our own lives.
Project World School, for example, aims to implement many of these concepts into our temporary learning communities and create an environment conducive to learning. All of the elements are there: Reflection and social learning through our nightly circles, conceptualization and critical thinking through stimulating cultural exchanges and personal involvement and context through the experiences we have in the real world.
“There are two goals in the experiential learning process. One is to learn the specifics of a particular subject, and the other is to learn about one’s own learning process.”
~David A. Kolb
In addition to the extrinsic learning gained through experience, this methodology also increases our understanding of ourselves. By adding a personal element into the mix, we can learn about how we act and react in certain circumstances, how we learn best and how we can have an effect on the world. This type of realization is often made difficult by the more abstract, isolated nature of most didactic approaches, where information and knowledge is suspended and isolated out of context.
Moreso, through experiential learning we can better learn about the consequences and impacts of our actions and thoughts. The best way to learn about the real world is to simply experience it. In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle says that “for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we must learn by doing them,” and that statement remains true, over two thousand years later.
Why Travel and Experiential Learning are Often One and the Same
By this point, it should be evidently clear why travel and experiential learning share many elements and often overlap. When traveling, everything becomes much more personal and hands on. For example, budgeting and language learning take on different gravities in the real world than they would within the confines of a classroom, and often one can’t help but to learn these things through the unique immersive environment that traveling can provide. Travel also has the added bonus of exposing learners to an incredibly wide array of possible interests, furthering the amount of deep learning that one can explore.
Travel is also complementary to experiential learning thanks to the extreme amount of internal processes that it helps refine. These processes include introspection, cultural sensitivity, self-awareness, social capability, time management skills and many, many more. Though these things are often referred to as soft skills, in reality, mastery over these skills is much more important than subject-based knowledge and is essential in being able to navigate the “real world.”
How Worldschooling Creates Doers and Practical Thinkers Capable of Navigating Life with Ease
At its core, worldschooling is the marriage of travel and experiential learning. Those who have grown up with or have experienced travel as a form of education in their formative years (from childhood through to the end of adolescence) often find the transition from childhood to the ‘real-world’ much easier or sometimes bypass it entirely. This is because they have already had the autonomy and the ability to practice making decisions for themselves. They are also more accustomed to interacting with different types of people, granting them greater social range than children who are limited to interacting with only their peers.
It is through the combination of all of these things that Worldschooling makes doers and practical thinkers capable of creatively solving problems out of your children. Through experience, reflection, critical thinking and motivation we can learn how to take ownership over our own learning, and ultimately, to learn how to learn.