Experiential learning

Towards a multidisciplinary perspective

Authored by: Colin Beard

Routledge International Handbook of Outdoor Studies

Print publication date:  November  2015
Online publication date:  November  2015

Print ISBN: 9781138782884
eBook ISBN: 9781315768465
Adobe ISBN: 9781317666523


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The term ‘experiential learning’ is in common usage: it has been variously appropriated, constructed and reconstructed (Usher & Edwards, 1994) across the globe. Experiential learning (EL) has a lexicon of meanings, with foundational roots in many fields and disciplines: complex and multidimensional, the term is influenced by an evolving understanding of the human experience of learning. Partly because of its long lineage and its multidisciplinary nature, experiential learning is not easily defined, has no unified theory, and is a term that has escalating ideologies and problematic boundaries. A core issue that arises from definitional disputes often concerns the extent to which EL might embrace life itself (Fenwick, 2003, p. 87), suggesting that the concept has moved on to the point where the ‘distinction between experience and non-experience becomes absurd’ (Fenwick, 2003, p. ix). Experience and learning are sub-component terms that embrace not only practical everyday issues but also a diverse range of philosophical, ontological, epistemological and methodological explanations (Hager, 1999). Experience and learning are so closely intertwined that in many respects they mean the same thing and thus experiential learning might be considered a tautology.

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