Since the curriculum reform in 2000, the Education Bureau has been advocating to help student achieve whole-person development and lifelong learning. The concept of Life-wide learning encourages the extension of learning from the classroom to social environment through a series of experiential learning, Other Learning Experience (OLE) in the senior secondary curriculum, which accounts for 10-15% of total class hours, is one of the examples. Experiential learning is not a recent term, but one of the major teaching models in the world. Apart from formal learning in the classroom, experiential learning emphasizes using diversified environment and community resources to reach an experiential learning circle, including concrete experience, observation and reflection, concluding abstract concept and practical application.
As experiential learning requires different resources input and school-based situations are varied, Big Education Platform, which actively provides experiential learning for secondary schools in Hong Kong, has the aim to review the effectiveness of these activities, on the participating students.
Hong Kong Policy Research Institute was funded by Big Education Platform to conduct an impact study in five secondary schools, including a questionnaires survey and student focus group discussion, during the period of July 2017 to September 2018. To understand students’ transformation in APASO, the questionnaire design makes reference to the APASO-II Form of the Education Bureau, with the APASO+ questionnaire including corporate spirit, STEM skills and humanistic values, plus an activity reflection questionnaire. Questionnaire results were collected in the 2016/17 and 2017/18 school year respectively. There is a total of 414 valid responses, while the student interviews were conducted in groups and person, so as to understand the students’ feelings and opinions towards experiential learning.
Major Research Findings
Impact of experiential learning activities on students from the grassroot levelThe research compared the impact of experiential learning activities on students from the lower class and on overall students. It is found that the former ones are apparently positively affected in the six modules, with the effectiveness twice higher than overall students, mainly in Learning Competency (LC), Goals of Life (GL), Entrepreneurial spirit (ES), STEM Education (STEM), Humanistic values (HV) and Motivation (MO).
In the meantime, education opportunities are generally fair : students from the grassroot level do not have less chance to participate in experiential learning activities because of their families’ socioeconomic status, and their level of participation in training camps, service learning and field study in Hong Kong is also higher than overall students.
Students hope to have more business-school corporation in learning activitiesThe research data shows that 95% students believe that the active participation of the business sector and community organizations in such activities would enhance students’ whole-person development and knowledge of the relevant work environment. The students repeatedly mentioned in the interviews that experiential learning activities could widen their social network with both peers and community experts. Enabling students to connect with the world is exactly the feature of experiential learning, when they could organically integrate their problem-solving skills and positive values with different people. This social capital or employment cognition appear to be more important to students from lower socioeconomic background.
The data analysis also shows that while business and school cooperation depend on the generous support from the business sector, education professionals such as teachers and retired principals also contribute a lot in the design, liaison, coordination and execution of experiential learning.
Experiential learning bring positive impact to students’ APASOComparing the data before and after the tracking research, students who actively participated in experiential learning show significant increase in humanistic values (HV), motivation (MO) and interpersonal (IP) performance, with the increase higher than those who did not.
Compared with mastering knowledge and technology, experiential learning has a greater impact on students’ attributes, such as developing essential thinking skills, motivation, self-esteem and self-management. These thinking skills acquired from OLE/ activities are in principle transferrable to subject learning. Experiential learning activities also enable students to understand themselves in unique learning contexts, for example, care of others, respect for diversity, perseverance, commitment, peace and justice. This could stimulate their learning motivation and curiosity towards different cultures.
The government has increased the grants for the All-round Learning Allowance. The research team hopes the authorities could provide full assistance for schools to promote experiential learning, so that whole-person education could be further enhanced. In this regard, the research team has the following recommendations:
The provision of more support to students from grassroot level to participate in experiential learning activities.Students from lower socio-economic status have less exposure to experiential learning in their daily lives. Hence, the government and different sectors should provide more support and funding to them, in order to enhance their whole- person development and broaden their horizon. The schools should also improve their school-based policy to stimulate students’ participation in high quality experiential learning activities.
Co-ordinating and encouraging the business sector to participate in quality experientiallearning activities under the “platform partnership" model.This research found that the involvement of the business sector, under the “platform partnership" model of professional coordination, could enhance students’ whole-person development and knowledge of the world, as well as nurturing their attributes and social development as required by 2.1st Century Skills in the best way. Students are more interested in this kind of learning activities. It is suggested that the government should support this kind of “platform partnership" model and encourage business and school cooperation, so as to coordinate experiential learning activities professionally and to support schools to conduct quality all-round learning.