Experiential Learning Library

What constitutes real Experiential Learning?

Unfortunately, many people use the phrase to describe anything from a classroom discussion to an outward bound style exercise. While personal activity is the essential component for Experiential Learning, “People doing something” is not sufficient to stimulate Experiential Learning.

Real Experiential Learning should have the following:

  • An engaging experience, doing a real job (or something like it) in a realistic way.
  • An opportunity for the learner to evaluate what happened, and draw conclusions from it.
  • Feedback that supports the learning.
  • Support such as facilitation to maximise the learning gained.
  • Opportunities for the learner to apply what they have discovered, and see how it works.

The Engaging Experience is what draws the learner in, gets them involved with head, heart, hands and emotions. There’s no fear of failure. Over several competitive, time pressured cycles, challenges are discussed and actions are planned, conducted and shared with peers. The learning from these rich experiences (simulations aligned to specific participant roles) lasts for decades. What we discover and learn from holistic involvement changes our behaviour forever. Given that most training is (a) forgotten or at best (b) never applied at work, Experiential Learning creates the opportunity for learning to be retained indefinitely and used repeatedly, and even unconsciously. This raises the ROI to far higher levels.

Evaluation happens both consciously and unconsciously following experience. Given an opportunity to think about what has happened, what they did to contribute, how un/expected was the feedback they received, and what they could have done differently, people can come to some far-reaching conclusions about their own decisions and actions. Without the opportunity to reflect, many learners fail to gain learning from their experiences.

The Feedback can come from the exercise itself, from facilitator comments, peer comments, or guided personal reflection. In business simulations, the simulation itself gives feedback in the form of business results; market share, profit, cash flow and so on. If the learner is focused on decision making to produce those results, the feedback is right on target. In a leadership simulation, feedback can come from peers and tutors who have seen the “leader” in action, and personally felt the impact of their actions and style. If this feedback is well structured, (i.e. focussed on role rather than person) it is easily and willingly assimilated by the learner, and leads to immediate and lasting changes in behaviour.

Facilitation extends the learning achieved in several ways. The facilitator could have wider experience and knowledge than the learner, and will encourage and reinforce their discoveries, point out alternative ways of approaching an issue, support them in thinking more widely about the implications of their decisions and actions, and add lasting value by embedding the habit of learning from experience. A facilitator guides and stimulates the learners to collectively discover the best practices for the individuals, with and for their group and the success of their organisation.

Applying what you have learnt is key to reinforcing memory, building skill, and above all securing the powerful conviction of the value and pertinence of the learning that comes from seeing positive results from what you have done, using a new skill or approach. In simulation-based courses, this repeated application is one of the factors that drives long term recall and automatic behaviour change.

Where classroom practice and learning re-enforcement is not possible, good learning design will plan for and support on-the-job application projects to ensure that skills are embedded and learnt for life.

ProfitAbility provides Experiential Learning across all industries and organisational structures, and ensures that our courses result in immediate impact from readily applied learning – retained at length, and transformed into behaviour changes that happen automatically and produce winning business results.

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