Learning Through Experience

Meaningful Content, Choices, Absence of Threat

Meaningful Content

  • When teaching content, it is important to use real-life situation, content that is of interest, content in which the learner has ha prior experience, content that applies to the learner's future, problem-solving/product producing situations, and concepts and/or skills that help meet Glaser's four fundamental needs (belonging, to love and be loved, power, and fun).
  • Words convey limited meaning if students lack relevant prior experience. This is because learning occurs like this: Sensory input from being there (experience) -> Concept -> Language -> Application to the real world. Frank Smith make the point that when meaning is reached, "learning" occurs automatically and simultaneously.
  • Brain research and our common sense tells us that the more you know about something, the more meaning you take away from it. All of this is also true for second language acquisition students as well.

Making Meaning

  • Leslie Hart says that input is a key and necessary ingredient for making meaning. Input is critically important in any kind of learning situation.

School As Counter Balance

  • Children's brains are unique; part of this uniqueness comes from genetic wiring, however much is shaped by environment. Experience also shapes their brains. This is the way the think and respond to the world, what they learn, and the stimuli they decide to pay attention to.
  • In the past, students would come to school possessing a rich tapestry of real experiences to build upon and learning continued apace. Today's students come with insufficient experience with the real word and the concepts and language that accompanies them.

Using Meaningful Content to Enhance Development of Intelligence

Curriculum Development:

  • It is important to ensure that curriculum is age appropriate. Also, when planning lessons, find out what experiences your students have had and build it in.

Instructional Strategies:

  • It is important to provide being there interactions with the real world, base second language acquisition on being there and immersion experiences, and to use cooperative learning strategies.


  • Offering students choices has enormous power to enhance learning. Having choices also allows students to select the kind of input that they need most in order to understand and apply concepts and skills. Although it demands teachers to develop a rich variety, in the long run it is much more time and energy efficient because it will help reduce the amount of reteaching.
  • The choices offered should vary greatly due to age, ability to stay focused on the task, and experience with making and sticking with decisions.

Absence of Threat

  • Fear limits exploration. Threat-real or perceived- significantly restricts, if not eliminated, students ability to fully engage in the learning process.
  • Absence of threat is an absolute must, a prerequisite for reaching the mental state of reflective thinking.