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Experiential Learning (Carl Rogers)

Rogers distinguished two types of learning: cognitive (meaningless) and experiential (significant). The former corresponds to academic knowledge such as learning vocabulary or multiplication tables and the latter refers to applied knowledge such as learning about engines in order to repair a car. The key to the distinction is that experiential learning addresses the needs and wants of the learner. Rogers lists these qualities of experiential learning: personal involvement, self-initiated, evaluated by learner, and pervasive effects on learner.

To Rogers, experiential learning is equivalent to personal change and growth. Rogers feels that all human beings have a natural propensity to learn; the role of the teacher is to facilitate such learning. This includes: (1) setting a positive climate for learning, (2) clarifying the purposes of the learner(s), (3) organizing and making available learning resources, (4) balancing intellectual and emotional components of learning, and (5) sharing feelings and thoughts with learners but not dominating.

According to Rogers, learning is facilitated when: (1) the student participates completely in the learning process and has control over its nature and direction, (2) it is primarily based upon direct confrontation with practical, social, personal or research problems, and (3) self-evaluation is the principal method of assessing progress or success. Rogers< also emphasizes the importance of learning to learn and an openness to change.

Roger's theory of learning evolved as part of the humanistic education movement (e.g., Patterson, 1973; Valett, 1977).

Application

Roger's theory of learning originates from his views about psychotherapy and humanistic approach to psychology. It applies primarily to adult learners and has influenced other theories of adult learning such as Knowles and Cross. Combs (1982) examines the significance of Roger's work to education. Rogers & Frieberg (1994) discuss applications of the experiential learning framework to the classroom.

Example

A person interested in becoming rich might seek out books or classes on ecomomics, investment, great financiers, banking, etc. Such an individual would perceive (and learn) any information provided on this subject in a much different fashion than a person who is assigned a reading or class.

Principles

  1. Significant learning takes place when the subject matter is relevant to the personal interests of the student
  2. Learning which is threatening to the self (e.g., new attitudes or perspectives) are more easily assimilated when external threats are at a minimum
  3. Learning proceeds faster when the threat to the self is low
  4. Self-initiated learning is the most lasting and pervasive.

References

Combs, A.W. (1982). Affective education or none at all. Educational Leadership, 39(7), 494-497.

Patterson, C.H. (1973). Humanistic Education. Engelwood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Rogers, C.R. (1969). Freedom to Learn. Columbus, OH: Merrill.

Rogers, C.R. & Freiberg, H.J. (1994). Freedom to Learn (3rd Ed). Columbus, OH: Merrill/Macmillan.

Valett, R.E. (1977). Humanistic Education. St Louis, MO: Mosby.

Related Websites

For more about Rogers and his work, see:

http://oprf.com/Rogers
http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-rogers.htm
http://www.ship.edu/~cgboeree/rogers.html

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Recommended Books

Experiential Learning: A Best Practice Handbook for Educators and Trainers

Sourcebook of Experiential Education: Key Thinkers and Their Contributions