Academic journal article The Agricultural Education Magazine

Defining Experiential Learning

Academic journal article The Agricultural Education Magazine

Defining Experiential Learning

Article excerpt

Experiential learning - "An experience-based approach to learning in which students experience a direct encounter with the phenomenon under study, reflect on that experience, draw general conclusions, and test their newly acquired knowledge through subsequent performance" (Phipps, Osborne, Dyer, & Ball, 2008, p. 530). Agricultural education and supervised agricultural experience (SAE) programs have long been associated with the concept of experiential learning. As the authors in this issue are quick to point out, experiential learning is much more than SAEs. How can agricultural educators make certain that their entire program is an experiential learning situation?

Directly Encounter Phenomenon

Agricultural education programs are known for their "hands-on" approach to teaching. Teachers utilize laboratories to provide students with opportunities to experience and learn from situations first hand. These laboratories include agricultural mechanics shops, meat processing facilities, aquaculture labs, greenhouses, land laboratories, forests, and biotechnology laboratories to name a few. Agricultural education teachers routinely provide students with opportunities to learn needed skills and to practice these skills in simulated environments. In addition to the simulated environment of the school laboratories, students are encouraged to develop SAEs where they can use the skills in real world situations. Although the name has changed numerous times, SAEs were a part of agricultural education well before the Smith-Hughes Act (Boone, Doerfert, & Elliot, 1987). We must make certain that SAEs remain an integral part of agricultural education programs.

Reflect on Experience

In my opinion, agricultural education programs do a good job of providing opportunities for students to "encounter the phenomenon." Emphasis on the next three steps, however, starts to decline in many programs. This includes reflecting on the experiences. Lesson summaries are one part of reflecting on the experience. Analysis of SAE records is another good way to reflect on the experience. Just as the emphasis on SAEs have declined, so has the emphasis on record keeping declined.

Develop Conclusions/Test Knowledge

It's not enough to "reflect" on the phenomenon/experience. …

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