What Is Experiential Learning
Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember.
Involve me, and I will understand.
–Chinese philosopher Confucius
Experience refers to the nature of events someone or something has undergone. Experience is what is happening to us all the time – as long as we exist. Experiential learning can be a highly effective educational method. Experiential learning is the process of making meaning from direct experience. Experiential learning requires no teacher and relates solely to the meaning making process of the individual from direct experience. It is an inherent process that occurs naturally. An example of experiential learning is going to the zoo and learning through observation and interaction with the zoo environment, as opposed to reading about animals from a book. Thus, one makes discoveries and experiments with knowledge firsthand, instead of hearing or reading about others’ experiences.
How Experiential Learning Takes Place
Experiential learning requires qualities such as self-initiative and self-evaluation. For experiential learning to be truly effective, it should employ the whole learning wheel, from goal setting, to experimenting and observing, to reviewing, and finally action planning. This complete process allows one to learn new skills, new attitudes or even entirely new ways of thinking.
We take in information through our senses yet we ultimately learn by doing. First, we watch and listen to others. Then we try doing things on our own. This sparks our interest and generates our motivation to self-discover. Think back on learning to ride a bicycle, using a computer for the first time, dance or sing. We took an action, saw the consequences of that action, and chose either to continue, or to take a new and different action. What allowed us to master the new skill was our active participation in the event and our reflection on what we attained. Experience and reflection taught more than any manual or lecture ever could.
Many scientific theories are available so far about experiential learning. David Kolb describes learning as a four-step process. He identifies the steps as (1) watching (2) thinking (mind), (3) feeling (emotion), and (4) doing (muscle). Kolb wrote that learners have immediate concrete experiences that allow us to reflect on new experience from different perspectives. From these reflective observations, we engage in abstract conceptualization, creating generalizations or principles that integrate our observations into sound theories. Finally, we use these generalizations or theories as guides to further action. Active experimentation allows us to test what we learn in new and more complex situations.
How is Experiential Learning Effective
Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him – Aldous Huxley
To be effective learners we must-
(1) perceive information,
(2) reflect on how it will impact some aspect of our life,
(3) compare how it fits into our own experiences, and
(4) think about how this information offers new ways for us to act.
Learning requires more than seeing, hearing, moving, or touching to learn. We integrate what we sense and think with what we feel and how we behave.
Active learning results in longer-term recall, synthesis, and problem-solving skills than learning by hearing, reading, or watching. Modern education needs to move from a learning-by-telling model and even learning-by-observing (as in the case-method) to a learning-by-doing model. We must move from passivity to activity. We must learn to extrapolate from our experiences and see how to apply what we’ve done to new instances.
Himanshu Talwar has vast professional experience in Public Affairs, facilitating Setting-up, and Market Expansion of Businesses. He has worked for the Governments of Japan, Poland, El Salvador, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and corporate houses.
After Masters in Business Administration (MBA), he further enhanced his skills by studying Philosophy, Law and attended Executive Management Programme (s) at Said Business School (SBS), University of Oxford, Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Calcutta and Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore. He holds a Doctorate degree in Management.
He is an avid speaker and has addressed various National and International Conferences and Seminars.
He is a National Level Award Winner for his contribution towards Vocational Education Sector. He has conducted a number of workshops to boost the morale of students and to guide them in choosing the right career path. He has also published many articles, research papers, industry reports published in India and overseas.