A Historical Perspective

In summary, the modern day AEE definition of experiential education has been shaped over time however literature on experiential learning tends to skip right to David Kolb, yet experiential learning dates back to Plato and progresses from Gestalt psychologists to Kurt Lewin, and Maria Montessori. Thus, while Kolb gets much of the credit for experiential learning; our modern day understanding of experiential education wouldn’t be what it is without their contributions. Plato’s importance is seen in the need for balancing the body, mind, and spirit. The Gestalt psychologists recognized that all three parts could be viewed as a whole. Lewin took the idea of the whole and analyzed how groups as a whole change based on the individuals who comprise them and vice versa. He recognized how experience produces change and a reformulation of values. Meanwhile, Maria Montessori recognized a change in the role of teachers from providers of knowledge to a more parenting and nurturing type of role. She applied her view as to what a teachers role should be via her learn by doing methodologies. Her style recognized the value of experience in shaping people’s knowledge and their development of skills.

All of these thinkers displayed ties with the AEE definition and showed that "direct experience" was essential in clarify values and increasing knowledge. These ideas can be merged into a process model in which body, mind, and spirit becomes balanced through skilled teaching and experience that enable learners to understand concepts that they couldn’t prior to experience. As a result, the value of experience is deemed extremely important in education because it provides an opportunity to gain knowledge and better understand concepts.