How To Move To The Joy Of Experience Based Learning

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944) was a forward-thinking educational theorist and religious reformer who lived and worked during the tumultuous early decades of Japan’s modern era. He was the first president of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai.

Makiguchi was as a classroom teacher and school principal. He was a thought leader who had solid belief in the centrality of the happiness of the individual.


Makiguchi came up with several reforms for restructuring the school curriculum. He advocated that children spend half their day at school and half in supervised work environment. This would help them gain skills, knowledge and experience of how society actually functions.


Tsunesaburo Makiguchi advocated this 90-100 years ago.


Back to 2018 and closer to home…


Dr. Renuka Nambiar, recently shared about her son, Sanjeev:


He cut the picture of an airplane himself. He wrote about the airlines. I gradually brought his attention to the air hostess. He listed down things done by an air hostess. He ended his writing with reference to our holidays.


And further:


He wrote about a girl cleaning up left over food in a restaurant. We watched videos of hungry kids all over the world, and I explained why we should not throw or waste food.


Sanjeev is a gentle, 23 year old. The family has been on our Parent Training program for 2 years now.


Prior to this, Renuka had spared no effort to work with Sanjeev and provide him the best education possible. Sanjeev had gone to school till grade 7, beyond which it became too stressful for him to handle.


Renuka homeschooled him after that. Sanjeev learned to read and write, to answer simple comprehension passages.
But he could not share his thoughts and experiences with the clarity and depth that he does, presently.


When he joined the RDI program, we worked on building his overall understanding through shared activity frameworks. We slowed down and gave him time to problem solve difficult situations.
Sanjeev shone like a star.


And Renuka became the best guide for her son.


Being on the Family Consultation Program paid rich dividends.


Sanjeev became much more regulated and ready to learn. At present he goes to bakery college where he will earn a certificate at the end of the academic year.


After college, he joins his mother at her clinic where she sets up enjoyable and appropriate activities for Sanjeev to engage in. The girls working at her clinic also pitch in when they can.


steps to independent thinking


The image by Dr Steven Gutstein of RDIConnect explains learning beautifully.


At present we’re working on steps 4 and 5. I am confident that Sanjeev will fully take the responsibility for his own learning, in the future.


Here are some tips that our families follow.
You can benefit from these too.


1. The actual experience


Teach in an experience based fashion, as much as possible.




We guide parents to teach via experience.
If they need to learn proportions and ingredients related to cooking, we take them to the kitchen to cook a curry.
Once experienced, facts become easier to learn.


Tip: Experience based learning is an effective way of learning.


2. Connect the dots


Let’s stick with the example of cooking a vegetable curry.
Once they cook it, we might take a short video or pictures to spotlight to students what they did.


We help them do a google search for other dishes they may want to cook.
We find recipes to keep in mind for the next time.


We spotlight their competence and link the experience by talking about it or writing about it.


Reading, writing are related to the actual experience too.


Can you decipher the connected dots?


Engage in an activity- spotlight competence- search for something similar- plan an upcoming session- prepare for the activity- engage in the next session- share what you did via writing, typing or a picture story- save in a recipe book for further reference. And so on.


Tip: Show your child the bigger picture.


3. Connect emotionally


It’s never just about learning.
Learning is an excuse to connect emotionally with your child too.


Sharing emotions and building trust are the more essential aspects of activities.


While I was in training (10 years ago) as an RDI Consultant, my supervisor Genevieve Chua would often comment. ”Invest in your emotions.”


I carry that thought with me, when I’m working with Mohit or my students.




As parents or teachers, we have a huge responsibility.


Tip: Invest in your emotions.


4. The challenge- what’s the next step?


Every day is a new day. It’s an opportunity to challenge your child/student further.


Make it slightly more difficult and yet not out of reach.




This is exactly what Renuka did in the instances above.
From a simple airplane, she moved to air hostesses and their responsibilities and then stretched it to prior travel experiences.


Tip: Stretch out of your comfort zone.


5. Extend the circle


It gives me immense joy to see Sanjeev working with the girls at Renuka’s clinic too.


They have learned to challenge him and become good guides for him.


When the girls are free, they challenge Sanjeev to a game of badminton.
He now plays a good game! Earlier he found serving difficult. But now he does it proficiently.


They challenge him with various art and craft activities also.


Slowly, but surely we’re moving towards independence.


Tip: Keep your circle growing.


Renuka shared the following news in her assignment.


His results of the first and second semester from college came out online. I was not even aware he had exams/assessments! Glad to say he has achieved 62% in the first semester, and 58% in the second one!


She had focused on the process and not the product.
The product followed automatically.
How incredible is that?


2 decades ago, Dr Steven Gutstein emphasized the need for dynamic intelligence and experience based learning.


A century ago, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi emphasized on value creating education. He emphasized close student-teacher relationships, and on each student’s unique capacity to learn, grow and “create value.”


Because life is not limited to the classroom.
It’s way more expansive.


How wonderful to be reminded of this great truth by hard working families, affected by autism.
Do share your story in the comments section.


What if you switched focus from results to life experiences?
Feel free to reach out for any queries you have.


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