There is a famous quote by Albert Einstein that goes like this,
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”
After 20 odd years of schooling, I came across this quote and thought to myself, “How true this is!”
Firstly, I was shocked by the very thought itself. Mainly because I think it was at least 50% of my 20 years of my life that was spent in trying to excel in it. Later, on reflecting on my entire learning journey, I saw myself putting my interests to a backseat in place of exams, submissions and deadlines. My first shock, I think came when I joined an architect’s office for an internship. It was an on-site job that I thoroughly enjoyed and where my learning had no bounds but it was also a place where I faced many challenges. Initially, when I started work, I did not know head or tail of anything that was going on. When I received my first set down from my architect, I was ashamed but after some time, a question arose, “What was I studying in college?”!
Staying with this question, I joined a self-designed learning course in Swaraj University, Udaipur, to explore and experiment with my interest for two years. When I actually started building with my own hands, observations and experiences in going wrong and doing mistakes taught me more than any college lecture could teach me. Concepts that I had failed to understand on paper when experienced on-site became etched into my mind.
For example, the importance of proportions never went into my head when I was in college. To me, they were just numbers that I had to reproduce in exams. When I was experimenting with mud plastering, my ratio was off. The plaster looked amazing as a mixture. After I plastered, the surface was so smooth and I put my effort into making designs and finishing it. Alas! After three hours, when the plaster had dried, the surface was full of cracks. I was frustrated the whole day… I re-did my plaster mixture for about three times until I got it right. I learnt never to proceed without doing a test of the mixture initially. And now, I will never forget that the ratio is 1:3:2 clay: earth: straw. The understanding did not just stop with numbers. My understanding of straw as a binder(like a tensile force), and clay as compression force grew. I understood that when clay is more, then the cracks appear because the clay compresses the plaster more than required. When there is not enough clay, then the plaster becomes does not hold. I actually understood how compression and tension work. A fundamental concept in building science which I thought I understood in college but it came to be something that I could not apply. Such experiences taught me that unless I could apply a concept, I had not yet understood it.
I realize that reading, writing and memorizing in an effort to collect data is different from knowledge. I think and I feel that knowledge comes from a very different space. Data, I feel is like writing in the air, the minute it is written it is gone but knowledge stays with us always. Having started on the journey of experiential learning, my conviction in experiential learning has increased tenfold.
David A. Kolb, an American educationalist said that
“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.”
According to Kolb’s experiential learning cycle, effective learning is seen when a person progresses through a cycle of four stages:
of (1) having a concrete experience followed by
(2) observation of and reflection on that experience which leads to
(3) the formation of abstract concepts (analysis) and generalizations (conclusions) which are then
(4) used to test hypothesis in future situations, resulting in new experiences. (McLeod, 2010)
When I started my journey in experiential learning, I began with the question “What kind of education was I subjected to?“.
Now, I am with the question “What kind of education are children all around going through?“.