Ho Q. H., Master’s in Education, Lecturer,
University of Education,
Hanoi National University, Vietnam
1. Characteristics of learning in the form of experience.
Firstly: Experience is an experimental and empirical action of the individual
Experimental and empirical action is personal and exploratory in many different directions. An action that is not exploratory or is controlled by others is not an experiential action. When students practice a skill instructed by a teacher, it is a teacher-led instructional exercise, not an experience with the full meaning, despite the result is that the student has acquired certain knowledge or skills.
Experimential action is also not simply a random test as in the diagram of B. F. Skinner , it is the purposeful action of E. C. Tolman  or an attempt to find solutions to certain situations by W. Kohler .
Secondly: Experience is a reflexive thinking action.
Experimental action and reflective thinking action are the two core features of the experience. Reflective thinking is “the projection” of thought into action and experience, leading the action to go deeper and explore the experience of the subject, discover objects and link them with current experience, thereby restructuring existing experiences and forming new experiences.
Through reflective thinking, action is capable of turning inward (reflecting), becoming thoughtful, critical and experimental action. In which the theoretical knowledge, experiences and hypotheses are verified to generate new experiences. Therefore, without reflective thinking, the action will not become experience and do not have continuousness.
A student quickly finishes the assignments given by the teacher but does not care about solving the problem, the result and its consequences (do assignments in a perfunctory manner), it is not experiencing, despite having gone through the action. It is important to distinguish between action and experience, they have different properties and effects. This is great significant in experiential teaching.
Thirdly: Experience is the action taken in a determined situation, basing on existing experiences of the individual and restructuring them on the basis of current experience.
Every experiential action must take place in a certain circumstance and based on existing experience of the individual, restructuring them on the basis of current experience. This is assigned by the principle of experience. The principle continually regulates that experiential actions must always be based on existing experience, transforming them into performance of the present experience, incorporating with existing experience and extending them toward the future. Due to the interactive principle, experiential actions ways take place in a problematic situation. All of experiences only occur in problematic situations. The combination between the principle of continuity and the principle of interaction creates a continuous development of experience in both horizontal and vertical. Thus, situations in the experience are not incoherence and overlap. Experiential actions are not the same as "money in the pocket" but rather a sequences of continuous circumstances that are constantly expanding according to the development of existing experience towards the future . This is the unique point and the dominant advantage of learning in the mode of experience.
Fourthly: the subjectivity of the experience
Experience is the action with strong subjectivity. Although the same kind of action takes place in the same context, each individual gains his or her own experiences which is different and even against other individuals. The subjectivity of the experience is assigned and represented by the object of experience, the existing experience of the subject, the modes that subject uses in the experience as well as the speed of experience, especially the objective of experience and the impact of experience. In addition, the subjectivity of the experience is influenced by the personal tendency and excitement and many other factors. Because of the high subjectivity of the experience, experiential learning is considered as a typification of the individualization method in teaching.
Fifthly: The product of experience is the change in each individual
The product of experience is the experience, the competence of action and the capacity to solve problems.
The goal of the experiential action is not the result that is gained from the experience but the experience themselves have become knowledge. This means that the genuien product of experience is not simply the result of action, but the extension (in both horizontal and vertical direction) of the individual's spiritual life actively adapting to new situation, and this is the product of experience and personal experience. In practice, when people experience a lot and accumulate experience, they will become experts in the field of respective activity. They are different from those who have a lot of theoretical knowledge and become theorists or skilled people by mastering the skills.
Types of experience
Although the categorization of experience is relative, it has practical significance. People mainly base on the purpose and nature of the experience content to classify the experience. Experience can be named as these types: Physical experiences, which are related to physical factors such as health experience, physical pain, the fatigue of body, the defects and diseases; Psychological personality experiences, including systems of cognitive, behavioral, emotional, creative and attitude experience; Social experience, which is the experience of social relations, social institutions such as experiencing social roles, social activities, lonely experience; Cultural experiences are experiences related to cultural norms and values such as festive experiences, artistic experiences, spiritual experiences, etc.
2. Experiential learning
What is experiential learning?
The common conception about experiential learning is learning from experience. Learners are "dipped" into an experience, are encouraged to think (reflect) about those experiences to develop new skills, attitudes and thinking. Experiential learning is a process in which knowledge is created through the change and transformation of experience . According to J.Dewey, experiential learning is a tectonic way of learning, a process of regeneration and reorganization that adds more significance to experience and improves the capacity to control the process of experience that is happened later .
Full understanding, experiential learning is the process of creating new experiences based on real experiences, based on assessments and analyses of existing experiences. Experiential learning is opposite to academic learning, it is the process of gaining information through researching a problem without direct experience.
Characteristics of experiential learning
J. Dewey emphasized the objective characteristics of experiential learning, the experiential action, reflection and interaction between the individual and the experiential event; emphasized that the element which organizes learning content is the experience of life, discipline, inner enjoyment and external control of the society  . Ghestal psychologists emphasized the perception of the experiential situations, the experiemental action, the observation, the comprehension and the process of dealing with present experiences in the way of here and now  . Kolb said that experiential learning has six characteristics: The best learning should focus on the learning process, not on the results; experiential learning is a continuous process on the basis of experience; experiential learning requires to solve the conflict between theoretical models and real life; study is a comprehensive process of adapting to real life; study is the connection between human and the environment; study is the process of creating knowledge, it is the result of the transformation between social knowledge and personal knowledge . Trong Ngo and Le Minh Nguyet  emphasized that the goal of study is personal living experience, the learning process begins from action, through action, and ends with the actions of dealing with missions in specific situations. They also emphasized that the organization of individual actions (or groups) is in the mode of experiment and reflection; focusing on experiential action more than the result of action; emphasizing on the continuity of experience, the process of continuously connecting the existing experience with current experiences and projecting future experiences; it is the process of creating knowledge and experience through the transformation of theoretical knowledge into real life, it also is the formation and development of individual adaptive capacity.
3. Soft skills development according to the experiential learning attitude
3.1. Some living skills need to be trained for student
Soft skills – intelligence and emotion: is a term used to describe important skills in human life that are often not learned in school, not related to specialist knowledge; which cannot touch, are not special personal skills but depend mainly on the personality of each person. Nonetheless, soft skills determine who you are, how you work and is a measure of your work efficiency. For pedagogical students, it is necessary to be trained the following skills:
- Skills of building and establishing social relationships.
- Skills of effectively planning and organizing work
- Communication and team-works skills
- Skills of learning about educational partners and subjects
- Occupational adaption skills
- Employment seeking skills
3.2. Designing activities of experiential learning in soft skills training
The aim of skill training: Learners are directly experiential the skills through exersices inside and outside the class, through the forms of hypothetical circumstances or study and analysis of images and video.
Step 1: Analyzing the knowledge content of the skills that need to be trained and anticipating the appropriate forms of experience.
- Analyzing the knowledge content of the skills that need to be trained
Teachers should clearly understand about the basic concepts and knowledge of the skills that need to be formed and developed for students, defining the units of knowledge of the skill and help the student to identify the skill through the organization of the appropriate experience form.
Structure of a special subject in skill traning includes: introducing the skill that need to be trained and developed => identifying the skill (skill concept, the role/significance of skill development with regard to individual activity in work and daily life) => stucture, process and steps of skill forming (analyzing the inner meaning of steps in forming of the skill and the relationship among steps) => practising the skill (building situations to develop the skill).
- Anticipating the appropriate forms of experience in accordance with the skill that need to be trained.
Determination of experience form for subject of each skill is a highly active strategy with both teacher and student. Together with determination of experience form is correlative preparation. From the result analyzing knowledge content of the training skill, teachers need to establish a list of experience types and form which are suitable for skill, experience and psychological characteristics of student as well as the environment that takes place the student's experiential activities.
Step 2: Designing experiential situations for student
The specific characteristic of experience is attached with situation. Experiential learning is that students implement experimental actions in a specific situation, in order to find a solution to the situation . Thus, designing experiential situation is the first step, which is decisive for experiential teaching and also the most difficult task of the teacher in teaching experience.
Firstly, the teacher selects the situations related to the skills that are trained for students. The situation needs to be ensured that it can happen in real life. Secondly, the teacher can encourage students to report on the situation that they have experiential so that the classmates can share their ideas and draw lessons. Or the teacher can ask the students to work in groups, choose the topic themselves and write a drama to express the skills that are being trained.
For example: With the skill of "establishing social relationships", the teacher can ask the students to work in groups. Possible situations are: job interview; getting acquainte with new friends to make friends; exchanging work with business partners, etc.
Teachers ask the students to compose dramas for the above situations and play the dramas for other groups to watch, comment, criticize and evaluate.
Step 3: Organizing for students to experience in the situation that has been bult
The purpose of experience in hypothetical situations or real situations is to help students practice with the skills that need to be developed. Through experience, students are free to give their opinions and share their experiences for the situation. When students argue over situations, they know how to apply skills, which will help them to master the skills.
Teachers should organize students to publicly experience the situations so that other groups can comment and evaluate. At the same time, teachers should ask other groups to give their opinions and other solutions to the situations.
The teacher acts as the umpire to controls the discussion among the groups, orientates the student to generalize the lessons learned from the hypothetical situations in the student's sketches.
Organizing students to experience the situations needs to take place in a vibrant and positive learning environment. Teachers need to generate excitement for students when performing experiential activities. When students are comfortable in discussing and arguing about the situation, they are able to express their personal views, this will encourages them to express their ego, promote their potential and creativity in dealing with situations.
Step 4: Evaluating the result of student’s experience
The strength of experiential learning is that students are free to mobilize and develop their full potential, experience and knowledge in solving situations. However, after a group or an individual student have practiced hypothetical situations about the skills that need to be developed, the teacher needs to objectively evaluate the result of performance of the group or individual.
Teachers should focus on motivating and encouraging students in measures to handle the situation. This will help students increase their confidence in giving their views.
In measures to handle the situation of students, negative options may be arose. Teachers need to adjust to avoid argument from other students. Each student has different living environments, situations and socio-economic conditions. The way to look at and solve the problem will also depend on the "status" of students. Therefore, teachers need to respect the differences of students.
Conclusion: Soft skills play an important role in the success of every individual in modern society. It is the adaptability of the individual in the environment. Soft skills training based on experiential learning attitude is the fastest and the shortest way for students to "actualize" their living experiences. Through experiential situations, students have access to a variety of measures to dealing with the problem from other groups. At the same time, debate and argument among students and groups will help them make reasonable adjustments to optimize the meassure options.
1. John Dewey (1998) Experience and education: The 60th Anniversary Edition by Kappa Delta Pi. International Honor Society in Education. All rights Reserved.
2. John Dewey (1997) Democracy and Education, An Introduction to the Philosophy of education; New York: The Free Press.
3. Kolb D.A/ (1984) Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Address: Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey; Publisher: Prentice - Hall.
4. Skinner B.F. (1953) Science And Human Behavior, The Pree Press and colophon are trademarks of Simon & Shuster,
5. Phan Trong Ngo - Le Minh Nguyet (2017) Experience and experiential learning in teaching. Journal of Educational Science, No. 146, November 2017. p. 8–13.
6. Piaget J. P. (1952) The Origins of Intelligence in Children. New York.: International Universities Press.
7. Vygotsky L. S. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychology Process. Cambridge, MA, MIT.
8. Tolman E. C. (1959) Principles of purposive behavior, Mc Gaw - Hill. N.Y.
Kohler W. (1925) The Mentality of Apes. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
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