Lau Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher is to have said: “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” The concept of experiential learning or learning by doing was the theme of ISP’s (International School of Prague) ongoing parent workshop, the Edge in Education. The Edge is a forum in which ISP educators and parents come together to discuss the latest trends in educational research and practice and how this positively impacts learning in our school. At ISP we believe it is crucial that parents have the opportunity to not only learn about what we are doing in school, but also to view themselves to be contributing participants in the school’s mission-driven narrative. The theme for this year’s Edge in Education series is “Lifeworthy Learning,” a term coined by David Perkins, educational leader and Harvard University Professor. Perkins describes”Lifeworthy Learning,” as “Learning that is likely to matter in the lives learners are likely to live.” One way for students to learn authentically is through hands or “project-based learning.”
As mentioned above, the concept of learning by doing is not a new one. It is a concept that appears again and again in educational literature. Over 100 years ago, the distinguished American educator and philosopher, John Dewey, posed the enormous potential impact of experiential learning in many of his writings and books. Sadly, Dewey was far ahead of his time, as is reflected in his words from over 100 years ago from his seminal work, Democracy and Education (1916):
Only in education, never in the life of farmer, sailor, merchant, physician, or laboratory experimenter, does knowledge mean primarily a store of information aloof from doing.
Educational research has repeatedly borne out Dewey’s belief in experiential learning or learning by doing, which ought to be an essential component of how students learn in school. An illustrative, if simple example is learning to drive a car. Consider about how well you would drive if you had only read the textbook! Even if you had aced every written exam, you would have failed the driving test. In order to learn deeply we must have the opportunity to experience the learning in some manner. It’s when we have an opportunity to apply what we have learned that we can truly retain the learning in a meaningful way. However, as Dewey pointed out, without an opportunity to reflect on our experiences, we do not learn.
One proven approach to experiential learning in schools is called Project-Based Learning. This is where students are given that all important opportunity to apply their learning in real-world situations. Parents in the Edge in Education forum viewed the following video about project-based learning from the website Edutopia, a great resource of articles and videos about educational topics.
If schools are going to continue to innovate and remain relevant to today’s learner, we need parents to participate in our vision of 21st century education. Click below to learn more about the Edge in Education conversation.