Learning grows through do, reflect and apply

Experiential learning expands and connects the educational activities to life skills. This creates a more authentic experience for the learner with application to their community and future.

You may be snapping pictures with young people in a digital photography 4-H club as they explore framing a spectacular scenery photo, guiding a group on a walk through a garden or teaching geography in a middle-school classroom do, reflect and apply works. Do, reflect and apply is often referred to as the experiential learning model.

Expand the 3 steps of do, reflect and apply to the five steps of do, share, process, generalize and apply and you have the basis of the experiential learning model. Long the foundation for 4-H Youth Development’s “Learn by Doing” motto experiential learning is grounded in education research. The Development and Evaluation of Experiential Learning Workshops for 4-H Volunteers highlights the research behind experiential education. The theoretical framework has been explored by numerous authors (Bloom, Dale, Bandura and Kolb) to understand the cognitive development and steps in the learning process. When applied in after-school or out-of-school setting, do,reflect and apply can enhance the youth learning process and develop life skills.

2011 Barry Science blastThe actively-engaged learner is paramount to the experiential learning model. Exploring the model starts with the experience of Doing, such as, preparing soil to plant sunflower seeds. The leader would describe the experience; the young person would do the activity. While the young people are preparing the soil, the leader might comment “how is it working?” or “what might make it easier?” Step two is to Share what just happened during the activity where young people share their observations and reactions to the activity, such as, “what did you do?” Step three is to “Process” where the leader asks questions what the youth considered important, such as, “was this similar to other experiences you have had?” The “So What” or the “Generalize” step is Step four, where the leader asks the young people to related the experience to their lives and connects the activity to life skills in their world. The facilitator might ask something like “what did you learn about being part of a team?” or “did you learn something about yourself as you _________?” Finally, Step five is the “Application” or the “now what?” Where young people apply what was learned to a similar or different situation. For example, “how will you use this information in the future?”

Again, the five steps can simply be whittled to three steps of do, reflect, and apply. The experiential learning model builds on the curiosity of the learner, using the learner’s prior experiences and taking the new experience to a further level with applications to their club, community, and world.

A starting point for information on Curriculum Development | 4-H is available. You can email Sheila Urban Smith, Michigan State University Extension 4-H program leader, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or to contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu/ or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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