What Is Experiential Education?

Experiential education is based on experiential learning, which means “learning from experience or learning by doing” (Lewis and Williams, 1994, p5)


Experiential education is not limited to a specific medium, and is used in a wide range of topics, including but not limited to service learning, outdoor education, and group-based learning.


“Experiential education first immerses learners in an experience and then encourages reflection about the experience to develop new skills, new attitudes, or new ways of thinking.” (Ryerson University, Experiential Learning Report, 2014)


The first theories of experiential learning arose in the mid-nineteenth century as attempts to move away from traditional formal education, where teachers simply presented students with abstract concepts, and toward an immersive method of instruction.


Experiential educators are aware that experiences alone are not the basis of the learning. However, it is the design and facilitation of a particular set of experiences, including frontloading and/ or debriefing and reflection that results in the most impactful educational experience.


References and Recommended Reading

A brief overview of progressive education
(The John Dewey Project on Progressive Education, USA)


Lewis, L.H. & Williams, C.J. (1994). In Jackson, L. & Caffarella, R.S. (Eds.). Experiential Learning: A New Approach (pp. 5-16). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Michelle Schwartz, Michelle. Best Practices In Experiential Learning. http://www.ryerson.ca/content/dam/lt/resources/handouts/ExperientialLearningReport.pdf