Experiential learning: why we chose it at Solver and why you should consider it now
- 6 minutes read
We know that our role is to give the best solutions to your learning and development challenges. It is also our focus to address the learning styles of your employees by making our programs learner-centric. That is why, 7 years ago, we implemented experiential learning in our activity. We saw it as an efficient learning method and the participant feedback has been rewarding.
What is experiential learning?
To determine if what we do is a good practice of experiential learning, it is useful to give a definition specialists agree upon. In the words of Lewis and Williams:
“In its simplest form, experiential learning means learning from experience or learning by doing. Experiential education first immerses learners in an experience and then encourages reflection about the experience to develop new skills, new attitudes, or new ways of thinking.”
Experiential learning can take a multitude of forms. For example: role-playing, games, case studies, simulations, presentations, and various types of group work.
We can also define experiential learning by comparing it with traditional learning:
A way we implement experiential learning is through our programs as: Rome, The Deep Sea Odyssey, Planetary Saga and Merchants of Venice. In short, these are complex games that we deliver in the form of full day trainings, conference games or indoor team buildings.
Experiential learning theory defined by David Kolb
David A. Kolb is an educational theorist. His interests and publications focus on experiential learning, career development, and executive and professional education. (Wikipedia)
His theory is based on four learning styles: active, reflexive, pragmatic and theoretical. These styles are based on four fundamental processes:
a. Emotions and senses – the concrete experience. (Experiencing)
b. Reflective Observation – people reflect on how information will affect different aspects of their work. (Reflecting)
c. Conceptualisation – comparison of the way the information corresponds to the previous experience. (Thinking)
d. Active experimentation – Finally, people think how new information can provide them with novel ways to act. (Acting)
All stages of the process are necessary for learning
Experiential learning is a bit misunderstood by the learning community. A reason for this is the fact that companies are naming their trainings or activities as experiential. They do this even if they don’t actually follow the four stage cycle that Kolb defined in his Experiential Learning Theory. If any of the four stages is left behind, it does not constitute experiential learning anymore.
A big mistake in designing an experiential learning activity is forgetting about the participant experience. Because is the experiencing mode of the cycle that initiates the learning.
Our experiential programs are simulations that reproduce conditions similar to those that participants experience at work. For example, in The Deep Sea Odyssey, they can be part of a marine exploration team. Their quest is to look for treasures, planning and sharing efficiently the resources available. They are experiencing organizing as a team to be more efficient.
To help learners make sense of their experience, it is crucial that learning is focused. We do this with the following:
- Carefully structured learning outcomes
- Briefing sessions and/or handouts
- Opportunities for reflection
- Tasks that directly apply what has been learned
Our experiential programs have a very precise red thread and the objectives are clear. Also, they are based on learning and forming good behaviours through the choices made by the participants and the interaction between them.
More benefits of our experiential learning programs
1. Participants are actively involved
Activity scenarios create full immersion in the game for the participants. It keeps them present and alert for the duration of the activity. This happens because the simulations offer clear roles and objectives to be fulfilled.
2. Learning is based on perception, not on theory
Henry Mintzberg said that “leadership, like swimming, cannot be learned by reading about it.” These type of programs are organized around the participants’ experience. This helps a lot in stimulating the learners’ skills to motivate and explain a topic from their own perspective. Also, they learn positive behaviours in a practical manner.
3. They establish a link between theory and practice
After the game part, we facilitate discussions where participants reflect on the situation in which they participated. Then, they formulate learning points and concepts to be applied in their working environment.
4. They are easy to adapt
There are various ways of building and implementing this learning method. We can adapt to the typology of the participants, the available time or the venue.
5. Our programs provide space for experimentation without negative results
Our experiential programs are based on scenarios. So, participants experience the effects of behaviours, attitudes and choices without the real world consequences. They also allow themselves to be less reluctant, innovative, and faithful to their own style. Consequently, their brain is relaxed during the game and can easily assimilate the information.
In conclusion, experiential programs are the solutions we found for involving participants and helping them learn the most in the allotted training time. A well-designed one will keep participants active and reflective. It will help them “own their learning as more independent, self-directed, and lifelong learners.”
- Eight important things to know about The Experiential Learning Cycle – Dr Alice Kolb & Professor David Kolb
- A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning: Theory and Practice. – Jennifer Moon (2004)
- Experiential Learning: A New Approach – Linda Lewis & Carol Williams (1994)