Experiential learning theory has been highly influential in adult training and development. Learn some of the basic concepts of this teamwork theory.
The definition of experiential learning isn’t straightforward. But for our purposes, the most important point is that experiential learning is based on the idea that people learn best from experience.
Some would simply describe experiential learning
Experiential learning theory can be traced back to the famous Chinese philosopher, Confucius who said around 450 BC:
“Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember.
Involve me, and I will understand.”
The design of learning and development activities has been heavily influenced by the work of David Kolb, and his highly influential book entitled 'Experiential Learning: Experience as the source of learning and development'.
I suggest you consider Kolb’s experiential learning model when planning any training or team building at work.
It’s really just a simple way of describing the adult learning process.
In simple terms, Kolbs experiential learning model suggests that there are four stages in learning:
.....leading in turn to the next Concrete Experience.
All this may happen very fast, or over weeks or months. The cycle may not be simple – there may be ‘wheels within wheels’ going on at the
Another similar concept widely recognised in experiential learning is the ‘learning wheel’. The learning wheel represents a cycle of learning –
This ‘learning wheel’ cycle is the basis for most continuous improvement.
Experiential learning theory explains that this cycle is
effective for all of us, no matter our individual learning styles.
This is because we are using our own experiences and our own reflections to build our understanding and skills in a particular area or activity. It’s not what someone else is telling me; it’s what my own experience and mental review is telling me.
And of course, I’m always right in my own mind, aren’t you?!
According to experiential learning theory, this ‘ownership’ of the learning process is what makes it effective.
By physically doing something, not just reading or hearing about it:
This has been just a very brief overview of experiential learning theory.
For me personally, it boils down to a few simple ideas to think about when introducing new ideas or considering ways for team members to develop and learn:
Your team members will discover for themselves what works and what doesn't ... and the learning and change is likely to last a lot longer as a result.
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Get your team to create its own story in photos. Or set some team challenges and capture the results on camera!
Play, laugh and interact together with some fun team- based games and activities.
Check out these resources: