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Experiential learning

Experiential Learning: Definition, Trends, And Patterns

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Experiential learning is very much what it sounds like. One definition of experiential learning is learning through experience; by taking an actual experience and applying it to similar as well as dissimilar situations. Experiential learning involves a very conscious and purposeful learning by reflecting on doing. For these reasons and more, it encourages an expansive way of assimilating, thinking, and learning for the individual that can be applied to other experiences.

Experiential learning can apply to an unlimited range of situations, ranging from school to sports to the boardroom. Virtually every profession, every company, and every team and individual can benefit. The processes involved are adaptive, intuitive, and practical; delivering solid, beneficial results to the learner. The methods are fundamental to human learning.

A basic overview of experiential learning can be demonstrated through the following: An individual has direct involvement in a particular scenario – that being, the “experience.” From this, the individual applies reflective observation, which involves an analysis of the experience as it relates to previous experiences and concepts. This then leads to abstract conceptualization to refine existing perceptions. Lastly, the individual engages in active trials and experimentation, thereby applying new concepts and improving skills as part of the learning experience.

The trends and patterns of experiential learning are always moving forward. These trends include:

Learning without Barriers: Barrier-free learning does away with traditional classroom desks and tables and, instead, creates “hands-on” simulation and scenario training, which are fundamental to the strengths and purposes of experiential learning.

Learning by Choice: Professional coaches and facilitators utilize a “challenge-by-choice” approach in learning programs that have been designed to meet the specific goals of every client. Such tailor-made programs encourage active engagement for learners. In cases where an individual might not want to participate in an activity, alternate roles in the training are made available to accommodate that individual.

Learning by Shared Experiences: The “shared experiences” part of an experiential learning training program involves the whole group collectively. This means that everyone, no matter their rank or position, is involved in a creative problem-solving task.

Learning by Silence: Program facilitators are increasingly using the power of silence as a learning tool. What this means is that participants benefit from stillness, reflection, and meditation as part of reflective exploration in the learning experience.

Learning by Doing: Experiential learning involves action. Course participants are encouraged to be proactive through involvement, reflection, analysis, and synthesis. This then is applied to a broader spectrum of active engagement.

Learning by Application: Much like the processes of action and involvement, experiential learning involves using what has been learned. Application through testing and experimentation of new concepts and new ways of thinking is a principal tenet of experiential learning.

Experiential learning is already in many ways the present and future of education. Experiential learning is a means of learning for which our minds have been designed – to take experience and apply that experience across other scenarios and applications throughout our lives.

Experiential learning is part of the suite of services offered by Mustang Positive Professional Development. The firm specializes in business and career coaching, presentation skills coaching, team building, and more. Mustang Positive Professional Developing welcomes all inquiries.


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