Experiential Learning K-12

Community-Connected Experiential Learning Document Cover

Experiential Learning

The Community-Connected Experiential Learning document outlines the role of experiential learning in helping to achieve Ontario's vision for education as described in Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario. Key themes from this document include commitments to provide students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 with a variety of opportunities both inside and outside the classroom, foster engagement and achievement by creating relevant and innovative learning experiences that allows them to follow their passion, and to provide students with more flexibility and ownership in their learning. One of the ways of achieving this vision is to partner with the community to provide students with more experiential learning opportunities, both inside the classroom and out, in local, national, and/or global contexts.

Background and Rationale

Experiential learning is not simply learning by doing - simply participating in a learning activity doesn't necessarily make is experiential. It is the process of:

  1. Reflecting on an experience, both during and after the experience;
  2. Extracting meaning from it; and
  3. Applying what has been learning that makes the learning truly experiential.

Research also suggests that experiential learning that takes place in the community contributes to the development of the Global Competencies: Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity and Innovation.

Graphic: 21st Century Skills Grouped into Three Broad Domains.

Definition and Goals

Community-connected experiential learning (CCEL) is an approach to student learning that provides students with opportunities to participate actively in experiences connected to a community outside the school (local, national, or global); reflect on those expereinces to derive meaning; and apply their learning to their decisions and actions in various aspects of their lives.

A connection to the community that is authentic and dynamic is now seen as foundational to the experince and to the learning derived from it. The community in question can be local, national, or global, and the connection can involve physically being present (on-site experience), being present through the use of various communication technologies (virtual experience), or a compination of both (blended experience).

The goals of CCEL as defined in the Community-Connected Experiential Learning document are to provide and/or recognize learning opportunities with a community that assist students in:

  • deepening their understanding of the knowledge and skills within the curriculum and of their life experiences beyond the curriculum;
  • acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to make informed education and career/life choices;
  • developing their capacities for deeper learning, including learning for transfer, and helping them to better acquire the global competencies so that they have the talent and skills they need to succeed and lead in the global economy;
  • contributing to a local, national, or global community and developing competencies related to their identitiy as individuals and as members of their community, society, and the world.
Community-connected experiential learning can be part of teaching and learning in all ONtario classrooms, from Kindergarten through Grade 12.

The Experiential Learning Cycle

  1. Participate: What? Students are actively immersed in an experience, acknowledging what they are doing, what they are thinking, and what they are feeling during the experience.
  2. Reflect: So what? Students think about their experience, guided by reflective questions and prompts, and identify what they learned as a result of the experience - about themselves, other people, the world, their opportunities, or the subject of study.
  3. Apply: Now what? Students describe how their learning stimulates further inquiry; how it has influenced - or may influence - their decisions, opinions, goals, and plans; and what they might do differently if they have similar experiences in the future.

Experiential learning requires educators to provide explicit instruction in the skills of reflection and to assist students in developing the habit of looking for learning that can be drawn from all life experiences.

A graphic of the experiential learning cycle. A three circle Venn diagram made up of Participate, Apply and Reflect.