Experiencing and doing is not sufficient for learning

“Experiencing and doing, is not sufficient for learning: doing the same thing time and again does not necessarily lead to learning; the activity in learning – the doing – is indispensable but not sufficient for learning.  The reflection, the evaluation, the analysis that allows for reviewing the process of doing is a vital element that allows for the extraction of information and making sense.  Thus learning implies doing, revisiting the process of doing and evaluating the consequences of doing.”

Julia Oliveira-Formosinho  “Togetherness and play under the same roof:  children’s perceptions about families”  European Early Childhood Education Research Journal.  Vol 17. Number 2, June 2009

The above quote reminds me of how Loris Malaguzzi talked about the idea of school as being a place where children not only ‘did’ with their hands but also connected their hands (and doing) with their minds (thinking).  I have become really interested in how early childhood educators support the process of children ‘making sense of their doing’ by revisiting and evaluating learning experiences, especially as part of a group.  It doesn’t always seem easy or natural at times.

 There are no doubt some challenges and dilemmas, such as:

  • Observing and documenting the doing only, how do we recognise and make visible how children make sense of their participation in an experience or encounter?
  • Exploratory/sensory/messy based activities are and have been considered essential to early years development and learning.  How do we evaluate which of these types of encounter enable the critical thinking?
  • Finding time for group reflection.  How do we pause the action to aid reflection?

It would be great to hear how others in the field approach these challenges or indeed if you have a different perspective to share.  Leave your comments in the box below.

3 thoughts on “Experiencing and doing is not sufficient for learning

  1. Hi Nick, I haven’t come across Anna Cutlers work before so thanks for the heads up. I have found one of her papers online that looks upon the nature of cultural creative learning which looks very interesting. The other person I refer to often is Anna Craft and ‘Possibiltity Thinking’ and the moving from an epistemic exploration of material to the critical expression of an idea or intentional possibility expressed in the non-verbal form of ‘What If”. I find that creative learning can be interpreted and acted upon as a ‘hands off’ mode of learning where young children are figuratively handed the keys to the classroom and resources and left to get on with it. I am interested in the roles and methodologies that artists and educators can play as active co-participants in learning.


  2. I am thinking to write an article about hidden play. A phenomena I came across while filming a child`s day in Estonian kindergarten. In some countries the early education is so tense that children do not have time to play nor talk but they just follow the tight schedule and teacher-led group activities. I filmed a day in ordinary kindergarten, following a three year old girl in her activities. And while most of the times she did not have a chance to be free in her development she (as well as the others) had learned to secretly play while pretending to be present in the teacher-led activities at all times. I called the phenomena “hidden play” even it was quite obvious that most of the children were playing (with their hear or clothing or with what ever) even though teacher considered it to be disturbing and quite often stopped their activities. I believe that children are great to learn and adapt to the situations… Look at the school classes where they have to sit for days in rows and listen.. etc.


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