Participant Perspectives: Experiential learning and Teacher Development

World Learning/SIT Graduate Institute courses are grounded in experiential learning.  We recognize that learning is most accessible and lasting when developed through experience.  Using this model, our course participants experience language learning lessons and activities, analyze them to identify core principles and practices, make links to current theories, then plan and tryout what they have learned.

In this model, learning is seen as a rich process in which knowledge is created from experience–learning by doing. Learners are central to making learning happen: they are viewed as actively constructing new understanding from their experiences, through a process of reflection and analysis.

Based on the work of David Kolb, World Learning/SIT courses follow a four-stage experiential cycle that maps onto, and enhances, the process of learning.  The stages can be seen in the model below:

We’ve asked participants on a few of our recent courses to comment on how the Experiential Learning Cycle has helped them develop as teachers. Here’s what some of them had to say:

The experiential learning cycle has:

  • Given me the chance to experience English language learning as both a student (in lesson simulations) and teacher (in practice teaching sessions) while simultaneously studying broad concepts and theories. I have found that putting myself into these two roles has given me a better idea of how students will react to and be affected by various activities.
  • Allowed me to take a closer look at what is happening in my classroom when I teach. Being a better observer allows me to develop more appropriate lessons to suit my class and classroom environment.
  • Allowed me to put theory into practice. I spent four years training to be a teacher in a public, progressive university but was never given the chance to explore what I was learning until three and a half years into the program. By this time, a lot of theory had been forgotten, or was pushed aside in order to obtain specific goals in order to earn my degree. By allowing students (trainees) to put what they have learned into immediate practice, they can explore what they feel is the most affective teaching approach, and to understand how others were affected by their personal teaching styles.
  • Helped me be like a good researcher – notice the problem, analyze it, then deduct the theory and make generalizations to determine the action plan I’m going to use.
  • Helped me know what’s beneath the learning process, the relation between learning and teaching and the importance of a teacher’s affection for the learners.
  • Made me more aware of what to teach, how and why.
  • Provided me a basis for interpreting and evaluating my own teaching as well as the teaching of others.

These participant voices speak to the depth of knowledge, awareness and attitude that can be reached when learning through the transformation of shared experiences.

What has been your experience with experiential learning either as a course participant or a trainer?

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