Are your teens disengaged? Frustrated with school? Apathetic about learning? Let’s talk about experiential learning as a tool for bringing a passion for learning and self-sufficiency back into the lives of your teens. Check out how learning by doing can make a difference for your family with these examples of experiential learning for teenagers!
Sara Segar is our guest writer this week. Sara is a former high school teacher with ten years of classroom experience. Currently, she writes at Experiential Learning Depot. And she will be sharing about how Experiential Learning can help your teen become more engaged at school!
Learning by Doing: Examples of Experiential Learning for Teens
I was a high school teacher for 10 years and now have my own kids that seem to be growing up at lightning speed.
What I’ve always hoped for as an educator and parent is that my students and kids grow up to be happy, self-sufficient, creative, problem-solvers who are passionate about learning and life. That’s really all I could ask for.
Why Traditional Methods of Teaching Don’t Work
I realized early in my career that traditional teaching methods such as drills, lectures, worksheets, and recipe labs alone were not going to lead to lifelong, passionate, and self-directed learners as I’d hoped.
In fact, those types of experiences by nature can do the very opposite. Lectures hand information to students so that they don’t have to learn how to find information for themselves.
Drills are passive experiences that require little effort other than memorizing and unfortunately are often absent of context. Learners don’t see the connection, relevance, or meaning behind them.
Recipe labs give students practice in following directions, and that’s about it. It is important to be able to follow directions, sure, but it’s also important that adults know how to think for themselves, ask questions, creatively problem-solve, find information, and critically think.
Traditional teaching methodologies do have outcomes, but those outcomes weren’t what I wanted for my kids. I wanted my students and children to build essential 21st-century skills, love learning, and know how to learn so they can go through their lives without their hands held.
So I pivoted. I got into experiential learning and never looked back.
Examples of Experiential Learning for Teenagers
What is experiential learning and what does that look like either in a classroom or at home?
In short, experiential learning is as it sounds; it is learning through experience. Everything is an experience, right? Doing a worksheet is an experience. But what makes an experience experiential?
There are some features of experiential learning that make it what it is. Let’s talk about those.
1. Experiential Learning is Active:
Active doesn’t necessarily mean that the experience is hands-on. Active learning is learning that isn’t passive. There is no delivery of information by an instructor. Learners are actively engaged through discussion, observation, questioning, experimentation, and more.
2. Experiential Learning is Authentic and Real-World:
Experiential learning is authentic. Learning experiences are connected to real-world problems, issues, or ideas. This is an important piece of experiential learning, which helps students see the purpose of their efforts.
For example, if a student would like to explore a particular career, rather than exclusively read books or articles online for information, they might also interview, shadow, or intern with someone in that field.
In doing so, exploring that career has become a real-world and authentic experience for that student.
3. Experiential Learning Personalizes Education for Teenagers:
In an experiential learning environment, experiences are personally meaningful and relevant to EVERY child. For students to care about learning, retain the content, and build skills, they need to see where it fits into their own lives.
All learning experiences in my classroom build around every student’s unique interests, challenges, strengths, goals, and more.
4. Experiential Learning is Self-Directed:
How do I personalize learning in that way? How can EVERY student personally connect to every single learning experience? By designing and leading their own learning experiences.
Student-led learning is magical. Learners can develop and direct learning experiences that are personally interesting, that will help them work toward their personal and academic goals, that will help them overcome their challenges, and that build off of their strengths.
That is self-directed learning. Your teens have choices and make their own decisions about the learning process and the outcomes.
A great student-led learning approach is project-based learning. It provides an authentic, real-world, and active framework that students can easily follow.
5. Experiential Learning is Reflective:
Finally, reflection is a super important piece of experiential learning. This facet of experiential learning is really what makes any old experience an experiential one.
Reflection is an opportunity for learners to analyze an experience, ask questions about it, and challenge and reframe their understanding of a concept, problem, phenomenon, and more. I work reflection into every single experience that my students have.
Examples of Experiential Learning in the High School Classroom or Homeschool
How can you apply experiential learning with your own teens?
Each of the experiential learning elements just mentioned can be worked into literally any experience.
If your teens will be exploring careers, for example, have them take an experiential learning approach. Have your teen(s) identify their personal interests, goals, and aspirations. Incorporate real-world and authentic learning experiences such as interviewing those in their field of interest. Have your teens lead the experience. Finally, apply reflection to the experience.
You can apply experiential learning to literally every concept, every issue, every community problem, and every single experience.
If you’re trying to wrap your mind around the details, stop yourself, and just think to yourself:
“What can I do to make this experience (fill in the blank) personally meaningful, relevant, and authentic for my teens?”
For example, how can I make this college exploration experience active, personalized, authentic, self-directed, and reflective?
How to Take Action on Active Learning
This blog post just cracks the surface of experiential learning. You can do so much with it, and I would love to help you do it!
I recommend getting started by grabbing my free experiential learning mini-tool kit.
If you’re interested in experiential learning, just give it a try! What do you have to lose? You ARE capable. You got this!
Good luck, friends!
My name is Sara Segar, and I am a former high school teacher with ten years of experience. I now find joy and purpose in helping other teachers get started with experiential learning. I developed my website Experiential Learning Depot to do just that. I offer courses, resources, workshops, and one-on-one coaching to help make experiential learning doable, engaging, and super awesome for teachers, parents, and learners! You can also find me on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook at @experientiallearningdepot!