Man, as a rational and curious being is in search of wisdom, exploration and investigation to find out the hidden mysteries in the universe and to provide comfort to the rest of the humanity. The curious nature coupled with the faculties of reason and senses enabled human being to go beyond the physical boundaries to explore the space and other planets. In addition, technological advancements have made the human life luxurious and more comfortable. The luxuries and comforts in the human life have been possible because of the certain faculties human being possesses and one of them is senses. By using the senses knowledge of the external world is acquired based on experience which in philosophical gobbledygook is termed as empiricism. Senses are the most commonly used faculty from daily life informal setup to formal classroom setup. Each sense has their own specialty of learning and the full range of senses helps students to learn material in a more concrete manner. According to D.G. Treichler “People generally remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, and 50% of what they see and hear.” Hence, it can be argued that opportunities of learning having blend of senses are more likely to provide opportunities for students to learn and develop.
Empiricism or use of senses is a widely used pedagogy in the classroom with different manifestations. Empiricism manifests itself both inside and outside the classroom in terms of the learning activities assigned. Inside the classroom teacher encourage students to listen attentively, observe carefully, taste and smell something that are some of the most frequently repeated activities. By using senses students acquire information and learn about the happening in the surrounding. However, one form of senses is preferred over other depending on the nature of activities assigned for effective learning. Though senses are used in lecture method too, however, in the collaborative and interactive activities with added concrete materials more senses are involved creating room for learning. In addition, demonstration by teacher in the class is an opportunity of learning having more involvement of senses through observation of the concrete materials as compared to direct method. Moreover, working in science laboratory for science lesson has more room for observation and experiment and is considered a more effective way of teaching science. Furthermore, project work in any subject is the best example of empiricism outside the class having opportunities for exploration and investigation. Hence, one can find a multitude of activities assigned by the teacher inside and outside the classroom having involvement of senses for achieving desired students learning outcomes.
Teachers also learn during teaching in the classroom consciously or unconsciously and it is termed as experiential learning. This type of learning is highly valued and appreciated under the umbrella of adult learning. A teacher, based on his/her experience of the day, decides to plan or design a lesson for the next day. A teacher makes lesson plans on daily basis and to implement it in the classroom for improved learning outcomes. In addition, a teacher should reflect on regular basis about the implemented plan of the day. The purpose of the reflection is to find out strengths of the lesson for generalization purposes in other classes and with other subjects. Moreover, teacher has to be very vigilant to find out or record the areas about improvement so that it could be overcome in the next lesson. This is a cyclic process and it should be continued throughout the career of teaching to make teaching effective for enhanced learning outcomes. Furthermore, observation of the activities assigned as class work followed by written or oral feedback are all the product of the experiential learning. Hence, it could be said that experiential learning serves as a backbone to improve teaching intended to improve learning outcome and overall behavior of the students.
Experiential learning plays a key role to improve knowledge and hone skills of both teachers and students. The learning gained or acquired in the process is long lasting because it spurs from manipulation of material objects and real-life experience of the cognizing subjects. Experiential learning provides an opportunity for hands on activities and interaction with the concrete materials. In addition, learners are free to make decisions while manipulating the objects during interaction and work.
In summary it could be concluded that involvement of students in practice and practical work a hallmark of empirical learning, enables them to learn by doing and observing. It enables the learner to develop self-confidence and self-esteem with added skills of critical thinking, reasoning and observation. Hence, as a teacher and teacher educator use of empiricism should be encouraged in the classroom to make the student a critical observer and an advocate of knowledge with evidences using a blend of senses or a single sense.
The Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED)
Professional Development Centre (PDC) Chitral