This post in an extract from our white paper on Experiential Learning. Scroll down to download and read the full white paper. 

What is Experiential Learning?

Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience; through doing and reflecting on a task. There are two types of development that people tend to put under the umbrella of ‘experiential learning’;

  • Learning on the job, where learning is a by-product of completing daily tasks.
  • Specifically created experiential activities, where learners are given practice scenarios, simulated tasks or ‘case study’ style problems to complete as part of a structured event or learning pathway.

Whilst organisations see great value from the first kind of experiential learning, it does lack structure, it is difficult to measure and has inherent risks – there are some things you would not want an untrained professional to attempt if they had no previous experience in the area.

Arguably, this form of experiential learning should be a constant by-product of our daily working lives. As long as an organisation has a culture where employees feel able to try new things, learn from their mistakes and expand their horizons, learning from our experiences at work should be a natural and ongoing part of working life.

The second style (specifically created experiential activities) aims to combine the benefits of traditional training (e.g. agreed objectives, a reflective atmosphere, measurable outcomes, etc.) with those of learning from experience. Activities are designed to enable learners to gain new skills and develop their capability through hands-on practice in low-risk environments.

However, for both types, there is more to experiential learning than simply attempting a task. A key element of experiential learning is reflection. After attempting a task, the learner must reflect on their approach and explore where they could improve.

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Experiential Learning