Experiential learning

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Learning as an experience

In Experience and Education (2007), whilst not strictly referencing the term ‘praxis’, John Dewey describes learning as an experience. He goes on to define experience as a result of the synergy between two principles: interaction and continuity. Interaction is the immersion in social and physical surroundings of the present, whilst continuity is the idea that past experiences effect the current experience and the combination of the two affects how a learner experiences the world in the future. The learner is experiencing learning through past and present circumstances and then applying it in the future.

Diagnostic assessment

Dewey’s theory on interaction and continuity places a strong emphasis on teachers having to understand the past of their students in order to effectively engage them with positive experiences that will guide them into a fulfilling future (Dewey, 2007).

Dewey on interaction & continuity

Dewey describes experience as the result of an interaction between two principles: interaction and continuity. Interaction is the influence of a situation on a participant’s experience, whilst continuity refers to the theory that each experience a participant engages in will have an influence on their future experiences. In short, the experience of a current situation will depend on their physical and social surroundings as well as a participant’s past experiences. Dewey also notes that it is best not to teach content in the abstract. Content requires a context in order to be learned effectively.

Dewey and experience

Artists and critics draw their inspirations and opinions from the sum of their own experiences (Dewey, 1934, p. 324). This inspiration is not only applicable to the Arts subjects. A student may be inspired to take up biology after watching a documentary on the effects of climate change. Another student may enroll in law after reading about the human rights abuses in detention centres. Through interacting with the Arts such as films,books or music, students are engaging with experiences. These experiences form the inspiration that could be applied to any number of new contexts.


Dewey, J. (2007) [1938]. Experience & Education. New York, USA : Touchstone (Simon & Schuster)

Dewey, J. (1980). Art as experience (1934). ALA Booklist