Will experiential learning ever catch on in the preparation of children for the eleven plus? One understanding of the term could be to try to help eleven plus children understand and make use of their own experiences in preparing for the eleven plus. The teacher, or the parent, has to take into account the emotional side of learning or revising a topic. Does the child need more support to be able to make use of what has been learnt? Is it enough to offer an explanation and hope that what has been taught will be retained – and will be ready for use in the actual examination?
A different sort of experiential learning could be role play – here the child could act out, for example, preparing for the examination – as well sitting the examination. Once again the emphasis would need to be on trying to help the child emotionally and intellectually. Some children may respond to being taken to the gates of the grammar school to look at the buildings, grounds, the pupils and the teachers. Here the child’s parents could discuss what it could be like to travel to the school, the sporting facilities that can be seen and what attending a grammar school could mean.
Experiential learning could try to provide a powerful and effective experience – that could be both realistic and meaningful. After all, if we can involve a child in a way that influences intellectual development, then we may have found a way to involve feelings, values and attitudes. Could this be part of the secret of successful eleven plus teaching?
As teachers and parents we may prefer to use the tried and tested methods of teaching topics, using selection papers and imparting information. It may be easy, for example, to set part of an eleven plus paper, mark the work and then discuss the results with all concerned. It may be far more difficult to try to think of ways of making the` candidate’ think and talk about what has been learnt.
Eleven plus children no longer need to rely on a set of eleven plus papers – because their learning can come from many different sources. Eleven plus teaching needs to try to keep pace with the changes and nature of learning.