Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Q: What is the Science Technology & Environmental Literacy (STEL) Experiential Learning (EL) Project?

A: The EL project's goal is to increase awareness, knowledge and use of experiential learning, the learning cycle, and inquiry. The project team has developed a series of three workshops, for use with 4-H leaders, ANR advisors, specialists and staff, and other clientele such as after-school program educators.


Q: What is Experiential Learning?

A: There are various definitions of Experiential Learning. Here are several definitions with references:

  • "Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand." —Confucius, around 450 BC
  • Experiential education is a philosophy and methodology in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, and clarify values. From the AEE (Association for Experiential Education) Web site:
  • The experiential process learning engages children in the activity, encouraging them to think more, explore, question, make decisions, and apply what they have learned. 4-H Cooperative Curriculum System (4-H CCS)
  • [Experiential] Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. From Kolb, David A. (1984)
  • The experiential learning model contains five steps but can be summarized in three main stages: Do, Reflect and Apply.


Q: What distinguishes EL from other types of learning?

A: Experiential education is a philosophy and methodology in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, and clarify values. From the AEE (Association for Experiential Education) Website:


Q: Is there a difference between learning by doing/hands-on learning and experiential learning?

A: "What differentiates true experiential learning from simply learning by doing is the reflective processing that takes place after the doing." From the "Heads-on, hands-on: the power of Experiential Learning" handbook from 4-H CCS


Q: What is the history of EL?

A: See "History and Links to EL Resources"


Q: When is EL an appropriate strategy for educators, and is it an effective method for all educational situations?

A: Experiential learning is a teaching methodology where focus is placed on the process of learning and not the product of learning. Experiential learning is learner and activity centered and creates an environment where learners can reflect and apply their experience to real world situations.

However participating in an experience is not enough, and in order for an activity to truly be called experiential, it needs to encompass the following elements:

  • EXPLORATION: "Do it"

Perform or do an activity with little to no help from the facilitator/teacher. Examples might include: making products or models; role-playing; giving a presentation; problem-solving; playing a game.

  • SHARING: "What Happened"

Publicly share the results, reactions and observations. Get the participants to talk about their experience. Share reactions and observations. Discuss feelings generated by the experience. Let the group (or individual) talk freely and acknowledge the ideas they generate.

  • PROCESSING: "What's Important?"

Discussing, analyzing, reflecting, looking at the experience. Discuss how the experience was carried out. Discuss how themes, problems, and issues are brought out by the experience. Discuss how specific problems or issues were addressed. Discuss personal experiences of members. Encourage the group to look for recurring themes.

  • GENERALIZING: "So What?"

Connect the experience with real world examples. Find general trends or common truths in the experience. Identify "real life" principles that surfaced. List key terms that capture the learning.

  • APPLICATION: "Now What?"

Apply what was learned to a similar or different situation, learn from past experiences, practice. Discuss how new learning can be applied to other situations. Discuss how issues raised can be useful in the future. Discuss how more effective behaviors can develop from the new learnings. Help each individual feel a sense of ownership for what was learned.

Experiential learning is a wonderful teaching method for engaging learners and getting them to think creatively. It requires letting go of "perfect" end products and embracing the experience of learning. It changes the role of the teacher to being a facilitator as opposed to the holder of information.


Q: Where can I learn more about EL? Do you have an EL bibliography that you can recommend?

A: Here are some websites with good information:

Experiential Learning Resources:

Inquiry Resources:


Q: Are there professional organizations of experiential educators?

A: Yes, here are a few you may want to consider.

  • The Association for Experiential Education (AEE) is a nonprofit, professional membership association dedicated to developing and promoting experiential education worldwide by:
  • Helping experiential educators build lasting personal and professional relationships within a supportive and connected community;
  • Raising the quality and performance of experiential education organizations and programs by developing and sharing standards through accreditation;
  • Providing access to experiential education information and resources from around the world; and
  • Connecting educators in practical ways and tends to the growing body of knowledge that fuels their growth and development. (
  • International Consortium for Experiential Learning (ICEL) Is a network of organizations and individuals whose aim is to promote experiential learning at a global and international level. ICEL offers an international forum for dialogue among practitioners, theoreticians and administrators in the diverse fields of experiential learning and education. It is particularly concerned with experiential learning as a vehicle for personal, social and global change, as well as with institutional and community applications. (
  • National Society for Experiential Education (NSEE) is a nonprofit membership association of educators, businesses, and community leaders. Founded in 1971, NSEE also serves as a national resource center for the development and improvement of experiential education programs nationwide. (