What? One of the eight Knowledge Processes of Learning by Design. Experiencing the new is related to the idea of situated practice – it involves introducing learners to, or immersing them in new experiences – such as going on an excursion, listening to a guest speaker, reading, watching or looking at an unfamiliar text, images, video or website, or engaging with information about a topic that students had not previously read or known about. New experiences are ‘new’ from the learner’s perspective – to make sense such experiences may have familiar elements or the teacher may link them to something familiar. Experiencing the new activities which involve students working in pairs or small groups scaffolded by teacher questions or prompts appear to be particularly effective. Often it is possible to bridge from an Experiencing the known activity into an Experiencing the new activity – this serves to anchor the ‘new’ learning in the students’ lifeworld. The teacher may design or use a Learning Activity which makes this connection explicit or the student may be encouraged to look for the connection – ‘How does this relate to your experience?’ One way of better understanding this knowledge process is to consider what it is not. If an activity involves direct or overt instruction by the teacher then it is probably not Experiencing the new – such activities are more likely to be found in Conceptualising by naming or Conceptualising with theory. Experiencing the new involves the student in direct experiences.
Why? Experiencing the new activities broaden and extend students experiences and provide a scaffold for building conceptual and analytical activities around. The teacher can take these new experiences and fashion a conceptual language around them so that students can talk about what they have been experiencing or relate these experiences to concepts or theories which the teacher is tasked with teaching. Experiencing the new activities provide a platform from which student learning is launched – they make conceptual and analytical activities more meaningful.
How? An out-of-school excursion is a useful way for students to Experience the new. Such an excursion could be deliberately planned at the beginning of a unit of work to enable students to gather information using a tactic such as ‘Data Charts’. Data Charts are designed by the teacher, according to her purpose, to focus student attention on particular aspects of the excursion experience. Out of school visits give students access to an invaluable source of first-hand knowledge that can be referred back to and, significantly, is more likely to stay with students throughout the duration of the learning. The use of Data Charts in Experiencing the new activities helps scaffold and support the gathering of data which can then be shared and added to as the learning progresses. Importantly such devices add purpose and structure to students’ experiences, the data gathered can be used in conceptual and analytical activities back at school. The scaffolding created by Data Charts is likely to result in success for all students. The first-hand experience of the excursion will help ground and make meaningful the later application of concepts, theories and skills developed throughout the unit of work.
More information on Data Charts and their uses see: Murdoch (1998) Classroom Connections – strategies for integrated learning, Eleanor Curtain Publishing, South Yarra
Also see The Lanyon Tool-kit for additional Experiencing the new tools, tactics and references to deepen student learning.