Experiential Education, Augsburg 2012

As part of an interesting collaborative research theme I’ve been exploring with experiential educator Jule Hildmann (Train the Trainer) around the links between ‘initiative games’ in experiential education, and the development of deep context in games for education, we co-authored a paper for the Internationaler Kongress für erleben und lernen (International conference for experiential learning), Augsburg, Germany, 28-29 September 2012.

Jule has developed an idea called ‘Simple Things’ which gives trainers simple tools to develop, structure, run and reflect on initiative games, in order to achieve learning objectives. Initiative games are often used in experiential education, and might be as simple as building the tallest tower with blocks – through to complex team challenges such as getting everyone safely across a fast-moving stream. Jule’s approach, and one which chimes with my own research, is to use metaphor around such activities, structuring them so that they reflect real situations, surroundings and challenges from participants’ own contexts. So crossing the river is not simply a group challenge: the river might be a strong weakness which the team are keen to overcome in real life, and the opposite shore the new direction they want to take.

A card-sorting initiative gameWe ran a 3-hour workshop around the exploration of these themes in Augsburg, in both German and English. By asking the participants to play a couple of short initiative games, and then apply metaphor to the games for their own context (which they visualised in some impressive plasticine and pipecleaner models), we encouraged participants to develop activities with the learning context in mind, rather than applying outcomes to preset activities.

A metaphor-modelThe workshop was a great success, and encouraged us to continue our conjoined research in this area: look out for more work in the future. The remainder of the conference was interesting to me as something of an outsider to the field, and allowed space for a lot of reflection on how approaches and features might move from the predominantly outdoor/active space of experiential education, to the more formal classroom or online spaces in HE.

Augsburg, one of South Germany’s oldest towns

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