Monday, February 27, 2012

Promoting Learning Outside the Classroom

by Elaine Hirsch, Guest Author

Three strategies American teachers find helpful to promote student learning outside classrooms are learn-by-doing, community immersion and peer cohorts. All three serve to embed outdoor learning experiences meaningfully into students’ minds. According to MBA Online, many traits of leadership in the workplace are developed through practice rather than hereditary traits. Practical examples cited from 4-H, Georgia State University and California State University exhibit three ways in which students can learn by moving traditional learning outside classroom walls.

Benefits of learn-by-doing include being learner-centric, fosters the performance of admirable acts, brings fun to educational experiences and teaches concrete science concepts, as well as general life skills. For example, students may be asked to work on alternative energy problems to help solve the world’s energy crisis.

After pupils have completed learn by doing exercises, teachers ask provocative questions to cement experiences:

• What were the experiences like?

• How did these experiences affect mental, physical and spiritual well-beings?

• What stood out as most significant when solving problems?

• What about the experiences were relevant to own lives?

• How can these experiences help prepare for fulfilling futures?

The 4-H club represents the epitome of learn-by-doing philosophy, also known as experiential learning. Children achieve self-reliance and build self-confidence by accomplishing tasks with minimal adult supervision. 4-H clubs are great compliments to traditional K-12 education. Students gain real-world experiences through a nationally-recognized organization. At the core of experiential learning are activities, scenarios and dilemmas for children to resolve.

Georgia State University is in downtown Atlanta, an ideal location for fostering community involvement and cultural enrichments. The school offers numerous programs to further these processes. Learners might visit Gone with the Wind author’s home and museum, the Margaret Mitchell House, or participate in Dialogue in the Dark (DITD), where vision-impaired guides lead participants through a dimly lit maze to increase skills such as empathy and understanding.

GSU students comment on the urban locus of their school:

“Downtown Atlanta opens the mind to different things.”

“It makes you want to be interactive rather than just sitting in the library or being in class all the time.”

“After a full day of community service, we do a celebration in the park.”

“GSU is intermingled with the business hub, so [the two] are as one.”

“The location of GSU makes me realize thatcollege is just a part of [a full] life.”

California State University facilitates learning cohorts in the form of freshman learning communities. To enhance first-year college success, freshmen are grouped with like-minded individuals on the same career paths.

Significant required coursework is shared, and a group of 25 students is paired with accessible study partners. Top-ranked instructors give personalized attention to these cohorts. Some of the advantages of this program are help with easier college schedules and planned time for outside activities.

The proof of success for such a program is in the results:

• Superior grade point averages

• Enhanced written abilities

• Better self-expressions

• Higher four-year completion rates

The acquisition of important life skills are important by-products of both community immersion and learn-by-doing programs. These extracurricular activities seek to complement students’ traditional education by allowing them to apply abstract knowledge learned while growing up. Students become better decision makers, build self-esteem and enhance their communication abilities. Also, the ability to strengthen friendships is reinforced, as well as volunteering to help those less fortunate and building stronger communities.

Learn-by-doing creates many advantages for students of all ages. It takes traditional classroom learning a step further and opens the door for increasing life skills needed for successful futures, and today’s students are our future leaders.

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