What is Experiential Learning
Experiential learning methodology is a well-known model in education, training, facilitation, coaching and organizational development.
Experiential learning is an immersive, participant focused active approach to learning that engages learners of all ages, backgrounds and experience levels.
Experiential Learning is a subset of the broader field of Experiential Education which is a teaching philosophy with a multidisciplinary approach toward learning.
Experiential learning focuses on practical application of knowledge and skills to real-world experiences to further increase learner's knowledge and develop competence in skills and behaviors.
It is effectively used in schools, higher education, therapy, corporate training and other areas for educational learning, personal development and skills building.
According to the Association for Experiential Education, experiential learning can be summed up in the phrase “challenge and experience followed by reflection and application leading to learning and growth.”
Experiential learning is not new and is an age old concept. Aristotle spoke of it around 350 BC when he wrote in the Nicomachean Ethics "For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them." Confucius also spoke about it at around the same period. However, as an articulated educational approach, experiential learning is very recent.
The concept of experiential learning was first explored in education and learning context by John Dewey, Kurt Hahn, Kurt Lewin and Jean Piaget, among others. It was made popular by David A. Kolb.
Experiential Learning can be defined as one that:
How Experiential Learning Works
The basic model of experiential learning cycle is "Do Reflect Decide".
Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory (David Kolb, 1984) defines experiential learning as "the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience."
Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory presents a cycle of four elements
Kolb described two different ways of grasping experience:
He also identified two ways of transforming experience:
Understanding the 4 Stages of Experiential Learning Cycle
1. CONCRETE EXPERIENCE:
Concrete experience describes the hands-on experiences that we learn from. It’s here that we try new things, face problems and step out of our comfort zone. These experiences could be anything in our personal or professional lives. its through experience that we get to learn from our successes or failures.
2. REFLECTIVE OBSERVATION
Next we need to reflect to learn from our experiences. The ‘reflective observation’ phase of the experiential learning cycle is all about reflection on the experiences which include both action and feelings. It’s during this stage that we ponder on the experiences. We get to reflect on what went right and what could be improved? It’s also a chance to observe how it could have been done differently and to learn from each other.
3. ABSTRACT CONCEPTUALIZATION
Once we have identified and understand the defining characteristics of an experience, we can decide on what we can do differently next time. This is a time for planning and brainstorming steps for success.
4. ACTIVE EXPERIMENTATION
The active experimentation phase of the learning cycle is where we get to experiment with our ideas. It’s time to put our plan of action to the test in the real world!
Examples of Experiential Learning
The learning process does not necessarily begin with experience, however. Instead, each person must choose which learning mode will work best based upon the specific situation.
For example, let's imagine that you are going to learn how to drive a car. Some people might choose to begin learning via reflection by observing other people as they drive. Another person might prefer to start more abstractly, by reading and analyzing a driving instruction book. Yet another person might decide to just jump right in and get behind the seat of a car to practice driving on a test course.
Below are two examples
Learning to ride a bicycle:
Learning to coach:
Experiential Learning Style Model
How do we decide which mode of experiential learning will work best? While situational variables are important, our own preferences play a large role. Kolb notes that people who are considered "watchers" prefer reflective observation, while those who are "doers" are more likely to engage in active experimentation.
"Because of our hereditary equipment, our particular past life experiences, and the demands of our environment, we develop a preferred way of choosing," Kolb explains.
These preferences also serve as the basis for Kolb's learning styles. In this learning style model, each of the four types has dominant learning abilities in two areas.
The four learning styles are
Kolb theorized that the four combinations of perceiving and processing determine one of four learning styles of how people prefer to learn. Kolb believes that learning styles are not fixed personality traits, but relatively stable patterns of behavior that is based on their background and experiences.
What is both interesting and important for group work is that different people tend to have different styles of learning, and therefore, place more emphasis, or feel more comfortable, in some stages of the learning cycle than others.
The learning styles are combinations of the individual’s preferred approaches. These learning styles are as follows:
For example, people with the Diverging learning style are dominant in the areas of concrete experience and reflective observation.
Kolb suggests that a number of different factors can influence preferred learning styles. Some of the factors that he has identified include:
Importance of Experiential Learning
Principles of Experiential Learning
1. The learner has a real authentic experience which includes real consequences where the learner makes a choice to participate and is intentionally involved in examining ,exploring and playing with a real world experience that can lead to any outcome.
2. The experience is an hands-on "feeling and doing" interaction. The experience can be planned or be completely spontaneous. There is very less or no teaching involved and the experience may include experiences which involve solo and group involvement.
3. The experience is direct experience with focused reflection and builds on past knowledge and experiences. It requires active involvement in construction of meaning and encourages collaboration and exchange of ideas and perspectives between the participants.
4. The learner actively reflects on that experience through individual thought, group discussion, questioning, processing or writing in a journal. They may participate in group processing and discussion including debriefing and reflective questions posed by a facilitator who challenges the group to create personal meaning and transference of learning to new situations.
5. The Learning is able to draw conclusions and makes sense of what the learner has experienced, including having opportunities to relate this/ her own experiences with those of others. The learner may develop theories, models or concepts about the experience. The learner may develop new questions, which can lead to the next experience or explorations. The learner is able to apply their new learned knowledge in the next experiences.
Why Organisations are Employing Experiential Learning
The idea of experiential learning isn't entirely new. Management Guru Henry Mintzberg pointed out long ago that, "leadership, like swimming, cannot be learned by reading about it".
A lot about learning is about mindset, and one of the fastest change the mindset is to come out of the comfort zone in a different learning environment that experiential learning provides.
Educators are now coming round to the notion of experiential learning as a complement to the classroom training. Facilitators are designing and delivering behavioral skills training using experiential learning methods.
When Does Experiential Learning Happen
Experiential learning is said to happen or take place when participants get immersed cognitively, emotionally , behaviorally and are supported by a facilitator in reflecting, processing the experiences, emotions, thoughts, and actions to get a insight in a safe learning environment, leading to change in perspective, understanding, thought, and behavior. An important aspect of experiential learning is transference, where the participants are able to apply the newly acquired learning in a different real life situation thereby demonstrating change.
How is experiential learning delivered
Training needs and desired outcomes are identified, conducive and safe learning environment away from work is created and participants are walked through a sequence of activities that focus on ice breaking, energizing, trusting building initially.
Once participants are engaged and feel safe, they are put into various tasks and challenges where they get to participate in a experience.
The sequence of the tasks or activities follows low order thinking skills to high order thinking skills. After every activity the facilitator invites the participants to take part in in a discussion where the facilitator debriefs or processes the experiences.
The facilitator invites the group to achieve a goal, but does not explain how to successfully complete the activity. Participants must work to find a solution individually and together as a team, and must communicate and learn from each other in order to be successful.
The Learning begins with the experience followed by reflection, discussion, analysis and evaluation of the experience.
How do participants learn in Experiential learning
The Participants undergoing the experience are instantly able to feel the results of their actions by participating in the experience. During the processing they get to realize the immense difference that can be made by a changing their thinking and behavior to the real life application.
Where can Experiential Learning can be used
Experiential learning can become a continuous process of learning and development in corporate companies and schools by adopting the basic steps of "do, reflect and apply".
There are many ways to practice experiential learning some of which are outlined below.
Team Building Activities
Adventure Based Learning
Outdoor Learning Activities
Inhouse Learning Activities
Drama, Art, Theatre
Simulation Based Learning
What are Application Areas of Experiential Learning
A range of skills and behaviors can be learned with experiential learning. It's more effective with change in human behavior and attitude than technical knowledge. Experiential learning is impact in most learning scenarios and can be delivered through education, facilitation and self participatory methods.
How Corporate Companies use Experiential Learning
Every organization is unique in its training needs, and therefore each company will likely have their own way of implementing experiential learning strategies. However, here are some activities and approaches that you can consider when tailoring your own experiential learning initiatives:
1) Simulations: This experiential training technique uses electronic, mechanical or software-based activities to simulate a real-world situation to which a learner must react. Since the simulations can vary depending on any number of parameters, simulated training offers a great way to educate staff on even the most remote hypothetical scenarios that they might have to deal with.
2) Case Studies: These are great examples of experiential learning that are based on real-life instances, situations that have transpired in the past. By exposing trainees to what happened in the past, using illustrative case studies, trainers can give them invaluable insight into the appropriate behavior required to deal with similar situations, and the blow-back it may have.
3) Role Playing: These are experiential training activities designed to help employees appreciate specific work situations from perspectives different than their own. For instance, a Customer Service manager might play the role of a customer, in order to experience the impact that a particular policy or procedure might have on the customer.
4) Sensitivity Training: One highly effective experiential training strategy to enhance employee self-awareness and confidence is sensitivity training. The objective is to design activities that help learners appreciate how others (peers, managers, customers) see them. As a result, workers become equipped with the skills and knowledge of how to deal with others more appropriately.
5) Gaming: Experiential learning games are a popular way to help employees learn by doing. The games can be organized in a way that individuals and groups play with each other, by either collaborating or competing, like in the real world. This process can teach them valuable lessons about how to deal with on-the-job situations. As part of this experiential training technique, motivation tools, such as points and merit badges, can be awarded to make the game more engaging for the learners.
6) On Job Training (OJT): Of all the experiential learning strategies out there, OJT is probably the one that offers the most realistic training experience. By designing experiential activities for groups of trainees, based at the actual location where they will be working, OJT exposes staff to “business as usual” situations – real customers, peers, and supervisors, real products, and services – that they will continue to deal with once training is completed.
How Schools and Education use experiential learning?
There are many ways in which schools use experiential learning by having students engaged in hands-on learning
Taking it forward
When deciding which of these methods, styles and activities you should use, it is vital to not lose focus of what the central idea of experiential training is all about: Learning by doing. So, if your specific training needs aren’t in alignment with a particular technique discussed above, you shouldn’t attempt to “force fit” it into your training strategy.
For Consultation for your expereintial learning needs please get in touch with us
- Diyanat Ali, 7729988781 [email protected]