A NEW WAY OF LEARNING
In a world of constant change and innovation, learning has taken on new meaning. While it was once enough to be competent at the same job over a lifetime, we are now required to constantly challenge our own perspective, to partner with people of different cultural backgrounds and believes and to be flexible enough to adapt rather quickly to new environments.
The conversation is no longer about learning as something that’s completed – it is about being a learner, so that we can adapt, change, take new actions and stay on target.
We believe for sustainable change, coaching is the most effective relationship and experiential learning the most powerful approach.
Experiential learning is a process, which directly acknowledges, welcomes, values and uses the existing knowledge and competence of those being taught. Its use is particularly appropriate where the subject matter under consideration touches on people’s deeply held beliefs and attitudes, involves emotionally charged or value-laden material, or is just plain difficult in human terms!
IN CONTRAST TO TRADITIONAL LEARNING
To better understand experiential learning, it is useful to contrast it with the more traditional approach to learning. Didactic teaching, where a person presents information to others in lecture or lesson format, which results in learning occurring solely at an intellectual level. It has been described as being based on the ‘mug and jug’ theory of learning (Roger 1983; Hobbs 1986). Put simply, the recipient of the lecture is like an empty mug waiting to receive information poured into it from the source of knowledge, the jug. This method of teaching involves a passive form of learning where students are not required to examine their own feelings, thoughts and understandings in response to the subject material. They are able to remain personally unaware either of the intensity or the effect of their own emotional response to the subject material on themselves or on other people.
Experiential learning aims for a very different degree of learning from that which is based on ‘didactic’ teaching methods. The different quality and nature of experiential learning lies in its involving as many different aspects of the participant’s capacities as he or she is prepared to invest in the learning process. Learning occurs at intellectual, emotional and behavioural levels in an integrated manner, resulting in real attitude and behavioural change as influential early learning is effectively re-evaluated.
Experiential learning is both exciting and challenging. It includes a range of different processes such as individual or team problem solving initiatives, physical challenges, games, simulation exercises, structured processes, sharing sessions, guided visualisations, and structured interactions. In all these events, students are actively engaged in the learning process and are able to generate meaningful, relevant insights from their experience.
David A. Kolb describes a four-stage, cyclical process of effective experiential learning, which embodies these dimensions:
Abstract Conceptualisation and
Kolb perceives experience in the present as the basis for reflective observation. Out of this emerges a conceptual analysis that can then be tested in an active fashion. This testing generates a new experience, and so the cycle begins again. The model allows for the possibility of preferred learning styles. Some people, for example, prefer to reflect, whilst others prefer to act. The implication is that the effective learner is able to employ a range of learning styles, while the effective organisation embodies the whole range of skills within its workforce and allows for the deployment of these skills at appropriate points in the organisation’s work.
Experiential learning places particular emphasis on reflection by providing a model and structure through which experience can be reflected upon and by providing an opportunity for participants to engage in the reflection/learning process together in a spirit and climate of mutual support.
The environment of an experiential learning programme is unique and special. It is dynamic, engaging, energetic, fun and rewarding. At the same time it can provide an intense, deep and profound learning experience for its participants. We believe that learning can and should be an enjoyable process. Experiential learning has proven itself to be a powerful, successful learning tool that is personally fulfilling, meaningful and fun.