Experiential Approach To Teaching And Learning In The Nigeria Classroom

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Katz and chard (2) posits that including project work in an early childhood education curriculum promotes children’s intellectual development by engaging their minds. The experiential approach to education is based on the idea that change and growth takes place when people are actively involved – physically, socially, intellectually, emotionally – involved in learning rather than just being receivers of information. This approach postulates that teachers teach their wards or pupils using drama: creative dramatics, puppetry, role play, improvisations and other play way methods, as well as introduce adequate learning materials to enhance their existing classroom experience. (Stanch field).

Children, as we all know, are dependent on their parents or guardians for food, clothing and shelter – basic necessities of life – thus, they have little or no worries in life than to utilize their excess energy in play; the term play is synonymous to every child, and they tend to be so dedicated and actively involved in the course of play. This early period, according childhood educations, is the best time to equip the child.

However, Katz and chard points out: children are formally instructed in Small or large groups and Practice  the skills and on worksheets. Largely mindless, these activities usually mean little to the children; the content is often unrelated to the world they live and learn  (4).

In contrast, Dewey, (cited in stanch field) buttresses the importance of learning thus: give the pupil something to do not something to learn; and the doing of such a nature as to demand thinking, learning naturally occurs (3)

The above citation supports the fact that children learn better by doing and the present mode of teaching without involving children in doing is inefficient. Hence, it becomes pertinent for administrations of schools to utilize effective means of teaching and learning in transferring knowledge to pupils. This calls for the utilization of experiential approach to teaching and learning. it is worth stating that the traditional method of teaching, also referred to as conventional teaching, is typically organized in a lock- step fashion so that children pass through same sequence of learning ideally at the same age. It centres on the classroom teacher- a domineering figure – who gives out instructions to the learners to adhere to for examination purposes.

Martin Thompson, quoted in Wikipedia posits that, the main objective of the conventional learning is “ knowledge/skill transfer, but this does not address individual growth and potentials particularly well” stating further, he submits that “it assumes wrongly what the individual needs to learn, and the best way in which they can learn… to pass an exam”. Here, creativity is not encouraged, as a teacher, for instance, could teach her pupils using same lesson note, examples, questions, teaching aid/techniques for all primary one pupils, year in-year out. However, the philosophy of experiential approach is based on learning and development achieved through personally determined experience and investment. It could simply be regarded as growing a person from inside. It is a method that enables the child to be equipped with the ability to solve current problems within and outside the classroom, as well as prepare them for the next level, the future. This approach helps develop people as individuals.

“Learners are encouraged and helped to learn and develop their own ways, using methods that are most comfortable and enjoyable” (Meggitt 35).

According to Wikipedia:

Experiential learning is the process whereby students “learn by doing” and by reflecting on the experience. Experiential learning activities can include, but are not limited to, hands-on laboratory experiments, practicals, field exercises, and studio performances.

In simple term, experiential approach is thus “learning while playing”. Play is “something of which the pupils partake of their own free will, it has a definite end in view (Chilver 11). As slave puts it, it is:

“An inborn and vital part of young life. It is not an activity of idleness  but rather the child’s way of thinking, proving, relaxing and working, remembering, daring, creating, and absorbing”  (42)

Hence, play is a high level of leaning, through which a child explores his world especially by imitating the world around him. For school plays to be educative, its main objective is better served if much emphasis is placed on how much of the students imagination can be drawn out and  utilized rather than the amount of his teacher’s own adult imagination (Umukoro 065).

“Play thus enables the children to bring together, co-ordinate and make whole everything that they learn” (Bruce and Meggitt (228). This is the onus of the experiential approach.

Despite the fact that schools are coming to terms with the reality that children learn faster by experiential approach, it has been observed that the adoption of this approach in teaching is inadequate and the classroom teachers are either unaware, or lack adequate background knowledge, hence are unequipped to utilize it is transferring knowledge to the pupils. This inadequacy and lack of adequate knowledge calls for serious concern.

It is against this backdrop that this study is being undertaken, amongst other things, to ascertain the impact of the experiential approach as a teaching and learning approach in the transfer of knowledge in primary schools, and to ascertain the problems associated with its adoption by schools with the aim of proffering lasting solutions and making worthwhile recommendations, where appropriate.


Generally, the educational development of the child has its foundation in the pre-primary and primary levels – the bedrock of education – and it is, thus important that educationist continually research to come up with more effective and workable ways of making the child’s classroom learning experience interesting and worthwhile.

In this regard, series of researches have been conducted to arrive at better ways of enriching curriculum and learning experiences an experiential approach is one of such outcome of  such researches (Katz and Chard 220). It has been established that learning is basically and experimenting and practicalizing activity. Houle (221) cited in Katz and Chard (1997) asserts that experiential education is “education that occurs as a direct participation in the event of life.” This approach stimulates and enhances children’s intellectual and social development.

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