Experiential Learning vs. Academic Learning

Photo by Ken Theimer on Unsplash

The following essay was composed as a practice exercise for a college composition exam, which was written in approximately thirty minutes.

I believe the most effective form of education involves both experience-based learning and the formal, academic style, found in traditional classrooms. Combining both forms can lead to a wider knowledge of how to use reasoning skills in chosen career environments.

The two types of learning methods each provide different roles in students’ learning experience. Traditional classroom type learning, where students can learn from methodical learning resources, such as textbooks and the insights from their educators, expose the students’ minds to the data they must acquire before taking a leap into the work environment. This information learned in the academic setting of their classroom prepares them for real world situations by giving the students an understanding of what should be known in that field.

Experiential learning can help students achieve common-sense based knowledge; this learning method ultimately shows them how to respond to different situations that might be presented when working in the actual work environment. Students get the chance to take the knowledge they learned from the classroom, and then apply this knowledge in their real-life situations, in real time. This form of learning opens students’ minds to critical analysis and reasoning in these moments.

One example of how both the academic learning method and experience method is used can be observed in medical schools, which prepare students to become problem-solving doctors. Doctors are required to retain a vast amount of medical knowledge, and also apply their knowledge to both commonplace and unique situations in the clinics and emergency environments. To prepare the future doctors, medical schools first provide the students with information they must know in order to understand medicine; this is done in the academic, traditional classroom. After the students absorb this medical data, they take their knowledge with them on clinic duty. Their clinical experience, which is provided in their late years of medical school, allows them to experience what happens in their environments, and it shows them how they must apply the knowledge they previously learned to solve medical problems presented by their patients. These medical students observe how their professors handle these real-life situations and also get to share their inputs, making the clinical, on-the-job-training a beneficial experience.

This type of learning, as well as training, is not only efficient in medical school. Each field of career should expose students to this type of educational system, as both the traditional classroom environment and the on-field environment well equips our future specialists of their chosen fields.

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