John Dewey at the University of Chicago in 1902

What is Experiential Education?

What is an experience?

Before dealing with experiential education, let’s first define what is meant by experience. Experience refers to an event or occurrence that leaves an impression on someone. Experience is an essential element in learning. However, experience is not exclusively identified with schools. It is part and parcel of life outside of school. and it would be a huge mistake to exclude the importance of experiences our students undergo outside the classroom in the learning process.

Experiential Education

experiential education was advocated by John Dewey in his short book Experience and Education (1938). Freire was also an active proponent of the ideas of experiential education. Focus in this education is on the participation of the learners in experience. Students in experiential education become more actively involved in the learning process than in traditional education. Dewey, for example, contended that education should be based on the quality of experience. For an experience to be educational, Dewey considered that certain parameters should be met, the most important of which is that the experience has continuity and interaction.

  • Continuity is the idea that the experience comes from and leads to other experiences, in essence propelling the person to learn more.
  • Interaction is when the experience meets the internal needs or goals of a person.

John Dewey believed that students thrive in an environment where they are allowed to experience and interact with the curriculum, and all students should have the opportunity to take part in their own learning. According to John Dewey’ philosophy of education, the experiential educators’ goal is to arrange particular sets of experiences which are conducive towards particular educational goals.


Experiential education is generally implemented in many different ways:

  • outdoor education,
  • service learning,
  • group-based learning projects
  • excursions,
  • physical education,
  • manual arts,
  • drama,
  • art…

More on Experiential Education on Wikipedia

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