9.2 Using Experiential Education to Foster Teamwork and Collaboration

John Dewey
Pictured is John Dewey, an American psychologist and educational reformer. Referred to as one of the forefathers of American pragmatism, he also was prominent in the early understanding of experiential learning. Image: John Dewey, United States Library of Congress, This work is from the Library of Congress. According to the library, there are no known copyright restrictions on the use of this work.
Images submitted for copyright by Underwood & Underwood are in the public domain in the United States due to expiration or lack of renewal. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Dewey_cph.3a51565.jpg

Within education, the overall philosophy of teaching is how students will benefit from learning. As a leader within a learning organization, the role to develop a method that helps the subordinates learn, and learn effectively. One theory that finds its place within learning organizations is the theory of experiential learning. Experiential learning was first coined by John Dewey[3] and later perfected by David Kolb, who describes the theory as providing empirical experience which plays a role in the learning process[4], and in many ways, connects to the concept expert power as a leader who has experiential knowledge.

The goal of experiential learning is to incorporate it in relation to real-world contexts. Bates outlines a set of design models that embed the learning within the real world[5]:

  • laboratory, workshop or studio work
  • apprenticeship
  • problem-based learning
  • case-based learning
  • project-based learning
  • inquiry-based learning
  • co-operative (work or community-based) learning

Learning within a real-world context plays a role within leadership in teams. Most of the models presented incorporate some form of teamwork that renders success within an organization. The focus will be on how the models of project-based learning and inquiry-based learning within organizations use teamwork toward the goal of learning productivity.

Project-Based Learning

Projects (either creation, implementation, or completion) are the driving force within organizations, and arguably, what moves an organization forward. Project-based learning is described as providing a student, in a classroom setting, with a sense of responsibility and ownership in conducting projects with other students[5]. This method provides students with a real-world look at how to develop plans and strategies, and how to proble-solve, and delegate responsibility all within an organizational simulation, without the risk of making an actual decision. Larmer and Mergendoller claim that every student should perceive project work as meaningful, and that the process fulfills the educational purpose[5]. This means that project-based learning provides learners with the ability to experience this simulation, and be familiar when they are placed in it again in their future job endeavours.

According to Bates, a danger to project-based learning is that it can take on a life of its own and lose focus of the essential learning objectives[5]. Within learning organizations, it is important to take part in the real-world concepts, but the learning objectives should never be left to the wayside. A leader should take ownership of the project-based work and decipher whether or not the learning objectives are being achieved. If not, the leader is responsible for adjusting and making changes to the project to ensure learning is, first and foremost, the main objective of the project. Noam concludes the usage of project-based learning sprouts many productive and creative forms of learning through a sense of conceptualization and democratization[6]. Although, time and economic concerns may be present with project-based learning, the ability for students to place themselves in a pragmatic and practical landscape can produce benefits.

Inquiry-Based Learning

With project-based learning, the leader has a level of control within the learning process. That control is manifested by the leader who provides the groups with driving questions and guidance throughout the process[5]. Inquiry-based learning is similar to project-based learning, but effectively different. A leader can provide help, but learners explore their own themes, develop actions, and come to conclusions[5]. Leaders should understand their students’ level of mastery before using the inquiry method.  This relates to Bloom’s taxonomy discussed in Chapter Six about how to build learning through experience by providing guiding questions so that learners can eventually develop their own driving questions in an inquiry-based learning situation.

In many ways, inquiry-based learning can be based on spectrum that develops the steps needed for achievement, along with involvement from the leader or instructor. Banchi and Bell have developed different levels of inquiry-based learning to outline the actions and procedures depending on the learning environment[7].

The use of experiential learning, within the framework of leadership, provides a level of autonomy for both leader and learners about how learning should be facilitated. This is at the core of experiential learning, as students develop their own learning style, and take accountability for their learning. This is vital in the framework of a institute of higher learning.  As learners leave the comforts of an experiential-learning classroom environment and move toward the real-world, full of decision-making and risk, they will be more prepared to take on specific challenges leading to success.

Activity: Blindfold Drawing

Source: University of Toronto Mississauga. (n. d.). Experiential learning activities. University of Toronto Mississauga, Experiential Education Office. Retrieved from https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/experience/sites/files/experience/public/shared/Team%20Based%20Problem%20Solving%20Activities%20-%20UTM%20EEO.pdf

Blindfold Drawing

Objective: This is an activity that focuses on interpretation and communication. Once the
drawing is finished, it’s always interesting to see how the drawer interprets the description.

Participants: Teams (minimum 2 per team) + facilitator

Instructions/Rules: Divide everyone into groups of two or more. Have individuals
sitting/standing facing away from each other. Give one side the pen and paper or black/white
board and chalk/marker, and the other the picture. Those with the picture are to describe what
is depicted to their other teammate(s) without actually saying what it is. For example, if the
image is a worm in an apple, they are not to say, “Draw an apple with a worm in it.” The person
who is required to draw has to base their drawing on what they think the picture depicts, based
on the verbal descriptions.

Materials Needed: Pictures, pen and paper, or black/white board and chalk/marker

Timing: 10 – 15 minutes

Outcomes/Goals: Team-based activity where clear communication is key. Forces those
describing the image to be creative in their prompts, and those drawing out the image to use
active listening and interpretive skills.



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Leadership and Management in Learning Organizations Copyright © by Clayton Smith; Carson Babich; and Mark Lubrick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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