Learning is an essential part of each person’s life. Delivering knowledge to young people is often complicated, especially when it comes to disaffected and disengaged 14-19-year-old young people who have got disappointed in education. Special programmes have to be developed for such young people, the programmes that would take into account the needs of each student and make learning interesting for him/her. This is how the necessity in experiential learning has emerged. Basically, experiential education involves a “holistic process, which combines experience, perception, cognition and behavior, and aims to encompass emotions, imagination and physical being, as well as intellect” (Martin, Franc & Zounkova 2004, p. 12). Experiential and outdoor learning embrace a number of practices facilitating the students’ comprehension of information (Petrina 2007). The focus of this paper is the impact of the experiential learning on the education of the disaffected and disengaged 14-19-year-old young people, as well as delivering of vocational qualifications and awards through visit and outdoor education proposed to these young people.
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The teaching context may include anything from the surrounding environment. For instance, in outdoor learning, sensory stimulators can be used; these stimulators may include “light and dark, noise and silence, shelter and exposure, calm and energized, food and hunger, loneliness and gregariousness, solitude and crowded, hot and cold air, wet and dry” (Beard & Wilson 2005, p. 162). Interaction with the environment is the basis of teaching disaffected and disengaged 14-19-year-olds. Real-life experiences will also facilitate the delivering of vocational qualifications and make the students more prepared for their future job roles.
Rationale for Research
This research is going to deal with the effect of the experiential education on the academic achievements of 14-19-year-old young people. Firstly, the literature used for the research will be discussed in order to explain the focus of the research. This will be followed by the description of the research methodology with the discussion of the primary data collected for the research. Finally, the findings of the research will be presented and analysed.
Exploring the chosen aspect of the problem is extremely vital. The matter is that the 14-19 year old stage is a critical one. Cooper (2000) states that, at this age, most of the young people need different environment for learning, the environment which can motivate them. Experiential learning is exactly what such students need because it is able to evoke their interest in vocational qualifications:
If more qualifications are seen as portable across the boundaries between types of job and types of learning programme, they may be seen by people as more desirable. Motivation to learn for qualification may be higher if the key stakeholders (learners, employers and learning providers) are involved in the management of general education. (Coles, Werquin & Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2007, p. 147)
All the 14-19 year olds have to learn much to become professional labour force. According to the Learning Pathways 14-19 Guidance (2004, p. 25), there is a definite set of skills which the young people of this age are expected to acquire. These skills include “communication (English and Welsh); application of number; information and communication technology; problem solving; improving own learning and performance; working with others; Welsh language skills; other work-related skill”. In case with disaffected and disengaged young people of this age, the learning process should not only focus on the acquisition of these skills, but on the special needs on these students. As mentioned by Easton (2007), experiential education offers another pathway for the disaffected and disengaged students. Though experiential education is often associated with outdoor activities, it is not limited to them. Experiential education may also involve classroom activities, though such education differs greatly from the one obtained in the traditional classrooms: “In traditional classrooms, teachers begin by setting knowledge (including analysis and synthesis) before students. They hope students will later find ways to apply the knowledge in action” (Easton 2007, p. 149). In case with experiential education, action comes first with the students making discoveries by themselves instead of reading about the discoveries of somebody else. Lucker & Nadler (2004) consider that such education is extremely effective because it encourages risk taking, creates safe environment for experiencing chaos and crisis, fastens the development of relationships, and offers equality to all the students. Besides, experiential education is entertaining, which is especially beneficial for disaffected and disengaged students. Therefore, a number of the researchers agree in the idea that 14-19 year olds demand special education and experiential learning can be quite helpful for meeting their needs.
This paper is going to present a qualitative research with the findings organized later into the descriptive statistics. The main method of data collection is the survey carried out among 10 disaffected and disengaged students (aged 14-19) who have been involved into the experiential education for different periods of time. This is a simple probability sampling that allows minimizing bias and guarantees accuracy of the obtained results. In order to avoid difficulties in communicating with disaffected and disengaged young people during the personal interviews, the survey was chosen as the most suitable method of data collection. The main data collection instrument for this research was a questionnaire (Appendix A) that has been developed some time prior to carrying out the research. The questions for the questionnaire have been developed on the basis of the unstructured interviews that have been carried out with the participants of the research. The unstructured interviews did not have any particular questions. They were conducted in a form of a free conversation between an interviewer and a participant. The purpose of the unstructured interviews was to discover the subjects which the interviewees were interested in most of all and to outline the questions for the survey (basing on the aspects of the given problem which the participants were most willing to discuss).
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The questions for the questionnaires were compiled in a way that was easy and comfortable for the participants to reply. Thus, the primary data were collected basing on the participants’ answers to five main questions. The questions are either multiple choice or Yes/No questions, which makes the collection of data less time- and effort-consuming. Some time after the unstructured interviews, the participants have been gathered in one room and the questionnaires have been distributed among them. The participants had to read the questions and mark the variants they considered the most appropriate. One question out of five was asking the participants to rate a sentence using Likert scale (strongly agree, strongly disagree, agree, disagree, neither agree nor disagree) (Langbein& Felbinger 2006). The answers to this question were the most important because they not only helped to evaluate the impact of experiential learning on the participants, but the general effectiveness of experiential education (at least for the given sample of the disaffected and disengaged 14-19-year-old young people). This all gave the necessary primary data for further analysis.
The aim of the survey was to find out the participants’ ideas regarding the experiential learning which all of them were (or are still) exposed to. Therefore, primary data for this research have been collected by means of a survey. These data were then carefully interpreted and analyzed. After this, the data have been shaped into descriptive statistics that helped to conclude which percentage of people agreed in the views on a definite aspect of the problem (for instance, how many participants themselves considered experiential education beneficial). This all allowed evaluating the impact of the experiential learning on the education of young people in such areas as the delivery of vocational qualifications, awards through visits, and outdoor education.
The findings of the research allowed discovering the participants’ ideas about the experiential learning. There are four main areas which these findings have covered:
- The attitude of the participants towards experiential learning;
- The change in their level of knowledge about vocational qualifications owing to the experiential learning;
- The rate of their interest in vocational qualifications;
- The change of their attitude towards learning.
If the findings in these four areas are perceived as a whole, the general impact of the experiential learning on the 14-19 year old young people can be evaluated.
Beginning with the attitude of the interviewees towards the experiential education, it should be stated that 90% of the experiential learners have changed their attitude towards education in general for the time they have been learning through the experiences. This not only proves that “learning through experience is superior to passive or rote learning” (O’Grady 2000, p. 59), but signifies that, in contrast to the traditional learners, the experiential ones develop increased motivation and thirst for knowledge. Since the majority of the respondents (9 out of 10) have shared the positive attitude towards the experiential learning, the effect of this learning on them can also be considered beneficial.
The survey has also given some data as for delivering vocational qualifications to the students through experiential learning. Experiential education was assumed to be more successful in delivering vocational qualifications to the students, especially the disaffected and disengaged ones. The data obtained have shown that 90% of the respondent have learned about vocational qualifications owing namely to the experiential education. Besides, the same 90% of the respondents have chosen a definite vocational qualification in the course of their studies. This once again proves that experiential education makes the students interested in vocational qualifications and further education in general, which allows stating that experiential learning has a considerable effect o the 14-19 year olds who are struggling in their studies.
And, finally, the findings help to evaluate the change in the attitude of the disaffected and disengaged students towards education that took place owing to the experiential learning. Therefore, 80% of the respondents have admitted that experiential education (namely, outdoor learning) have contributed greatly into changing of their attitude towards education in general. As it was discovered during the unstructured interviews (though this information can hardly be registered), most of the disaffected and disengaged students got interested in the subjects they paid no attention to before. The explanation for this, as they considered, was that never have these subjects been presented to them from the practical side. Thus, the findings of the research support the idea that experiential learning and education have an immense effect on the disaffected and disengaged students’ education and ideas about vocational qualifications.
However, just like any study, this one has several limitations. First of all, though the questionnaire does have a question about the period of time each participant has been involved with the experiential learning, this information is not taken into account when obtaining the answers to all the other questions. This means that, for instance, the attitude of the participants who have been in the experiential education for less than a year, may not have shaped properly, which had a certain effect on the results of the study. Another limitation is that the age of the participants was not taken into account as well. The age group was 14-19; however, the perception of such serious things as education differs at the age of 14 and 18 or 19. This factor creates an additional limitation to this research.
Experiential learning has never been a controversial issue. Most of the researchers agreed in the idea that experiential learning is beneficial for most of the students. The research presented in this paper has also proved that experiential learning has a positive impact on the education of the disaffected and disengaged students aged 14-19, as well as on the development of their attitude towards their further education and future career.
- How long have you been involved with the experiential learning?
- Less than 6 months (2)
- Around 1 year (3)
- More than 1 year (5)
- Has your attitude towards education changed since then? (Yes/No) (9/1)
- Positive: 90%
- What do you know about vocational qualifications?
- much (7)
- not much (3)
- nothing (0)
- Positive: 70%
- How have you found out about them?
- Read somewhere (1)
- From the visits of educational professionals (4)
- From the classes (5)
- Other variant (0)
- Positive: 90%
- Please, rate the following statement (agree (4), disagree (1), strongly agree (4), strongly disagree, neither agree nor disagree (1)): Outdoor education has changed my attitude towards learning
- Positive: 80%
- For the time of your experiential learning, have you become interested in any particular vocational qualification? (Yes/No) (9/1)
- Positive: 90%
- Total positive (average): 84%
Beard CM & Wilson JP 2006, Experiential learning: a best practice handbook for educators and trainers, Kogan Page Publishers, Philadelphia.
Coles, M, Werquin, P & Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2007, Qualifications systems: bridges to lifelong learning, OECD Publishing, Paris.
Cooper, P 2000, Positive alternatives to exclusion, Routledge, London and New York.
Easton, LB 2007, Engaging the disengaged: how schools can help struggling students succeed, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks.
Langbein, LI & Felbinger, CL 2006, Public program evaluation: a statistical guide, M.E. Sharpe, New York.
Luckner & Nadler 2004, 12 Reasons Why Experiential Learning is Effective, Wilderdom Outdoor Education. Web.
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Martin, A, Franc, D & Zounkova, D 2004, Outdoor and experiential learning: an holistic and creative approach to programme design, Gower Publishing, Ltd., Aldershot.
National Assembly for Wales 2004, Learning Pathways 14-19 Guidance, National Assembly for Wales. Web.
O’Grady, CR 2000, Integrating service learning and multicultural education in colleges and universities, Routledge, London and New York.
Petrina, S 2007, Advanced teaching methods for the technology classroom, Idea Group, Inc., Hershey, PA.