The philosophy of experiential learning holds that there are some things that can best be learned by doing. As a teacher, I believe that as information has become more and more easily accessible, there is less need for any of us (teachers or students) to remember exact information that can be easily looked up. This frees us to spend more of our time achieving deeper understanding, integrating knowledge from diverse fields, creating new work, and allowing knowledge to transform our sense of ourselves and the world we live in.
Philosophy is quintessentially a method rather than a defined subject area. Just among my colleagues here at RIT, our research has to do with eastern religion, death, mental causation, the promises and dangers of nanotechnology, and the qualities of art. Because philosophy is a method of analysis and questioning, it requires personal involvement. And ethics, especially, has to do with matters of experience.
Experiential learning involves taking on an activity with a commitment to learn something new and to relate it to a preconceived framework. The structure is necessarily open-ended, because it relies entirely on a student's willingness to start a new learning experience that can be based on their personal experience and beliefs. The role of the teacher is to provide suggestions, help students overcome obstacles they face, and to encourage and guide reflection in a way that guides the student away from mis-educative or empty experience.
According to Wikipedia, the educator David Kolb has outlined 4 requirements for experiential learning:
- the learner must be willing to be actively involved in the experience;
- the learner must be able to reflect on the experience;
- the learner must possess and use analytical skills to conceptualize the experience; and
- the learner must possess decision making and problem solving skills in order to use the new ideas gained from the experience.
I'm curious whether you've done open-ended projects like this in other classes. Were they research projects? Building projects (in engineering classes)? How are you encouraged to be creative? Do you find them satisfying or stress-inducing?