AbstractsEducation Research & Administration

Beyond Learning By Doing: Theoretical Currents of Experience in Education

by Jay W. Roberts

Institution: Miami University
Department: Educational Leadership
Degree: PhD
Year: 2009
Keywords: Education; Educational Theory; Experietial Education, Outdoor Education, Philosophy; Experience; Education
Record ID: 1854384
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=miami1240251991


This dissertation considers several distinctive theoretical currents of experience within the intersecting fields of outdoor, environmental, and experiential education. I argue that, to date, too little work has been undertaken interrogating the usage of the term “experiential” theoretically and philosophically. This has resulted in a relatively homogeneous and simple construction of the role of experience in these particular curriculum projects. As a result, much of the related theoretical, scholarly, and popular work equates “learning by doing” and experiential education, misrepresenting both the complexity and the level of “contestation” in the theoretical history of experience in education. In an attempt to begin to go beyond the taken for granted notion of “learning by doing,” I articulate three main currents of experience evoked within these projects under the chapter headings: experience and the social, experience and the individual, and experience and the political. Each of the three currents is discussed in terms of their defining characteristics and the promises and challenges of their various constructions of experience. I argue further that each of these currents is threatened by the rise of a fourth variation. This current neatly combines market logics of efficiency, standardization, and control through a rationalization and commodification of experience in education. I discuss this process under the chapter heading: Experience and the Market. Finally, I conclude with a discussion of the implications of a more theoretically complicated and robust explication of experiential education, pointing to the inherent contradictions and fundamental difficulties in defining this relatively new field. Despite these flaws (or perhaps because of them), I call for, in the words of Maxine Greene “imagining how things might be otherwise” in experiential education by emphasizing a notion of experience that draws from a Deweyian sense of becoming, indeterminacy, and democratic aspiration.