The Blue Collared Experiential Learning

Long back when I started off my first job in one of Kolkatta’s sleepy suburb in a textile manufacturing unit ; my friends , philosopher and guides were the co-workers and labourers of the factory. Though blue collared in work profile ; I learnt most of my “ The Art of Living “ kind of lessons from them.

One such person who was the head repairman ( ‘ mistry ‘ ) of the production department told me something very profound at the end of one of my evening shift’s.

‘Reflect what you did today and assimilate your thoughts !!’

Fifteen years down the line when I ‘ reflect ‘ upon what I was asked to reflect upon then , I immediately connect to the following :

“I hear, I know. I see, I remember. I do, I understand.”

–Confucius, China’s most famous teacher, philosopher, and political theorist, 551-479 BC

The notion of experiential education, or learning by doing, has a long history. Early on, outdoor educators embraced experiential education as a way of learning in the outdoors. Similarly, adventure education programs, which also take participants into the outdoors, use real-world experiences to achieve their learning goals. It was not until the 1970s that experiential education emerged as a recognized field of education, and in 1977 the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) was established (Hammerman, Hammerman, & Hammerman, 2001).

More recently, David Kolb has taken the gauntlet in support of experiential learning stating that learning is multi-dimensional process. Beginning from concrete experience, to observation and reflection, then to the formation of abstract concepts and generalizations, to testing implications of new concepts in new situations. Many others have taken this model and expanded on it or used it to explain their theories.

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Although experiential education has come to mean simply “learning by doing” for some, educators utilizing this approach recognize both its distinguished historical and philosophical roots and the complexity of applying what appears to be so elementary.

Recently , Mr. Sonam Wangchuk has bagged the prestigious ‘ Rolex Awards ‘ for his “Ice Stupas” project and is one among the five winners of this year’s award. He maintains that if school drop outs and failures are headed to become million dollar enterprise leaders; there is a fault in our education system.

Maybe it is time to formalize the experiential education. When education is said to be experiential, it means that it is structured in a way that allows the learner to explore the phenomenon under study–to form a direct relationship with the subject matter–rather than merely reading about the phenomenon or encountering it indirectly. Experiential learning, then, requires that the learner play an active role in the experience and that the experience is followed by reflection as a method for processing, understanding, and making sense of it.

When applied to the corporate world (with the ‘training’ department being rechristened as the ‘learning’ department as the façade ) the learning on the whole has become more discovery and internal growth oriented.

While I personally can vouch for the efficacy of this model through various training programs which we have conducted across the country , what holds me awe-inspired is the learning which we can get from the so called blue collared personnel towards technical and life skills . Kudos to them !!