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What is Experiential Learning?

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Experiential learning is the process of learning by doing and is a type of active learning compared to didactic or rote learning, which are more passive. For example, rather than just reading about medical diagnostic testing, you would actually be running those tests.

Elements of experiential learning

David Kolb’s Cycle of Experiential Learning is one of the most common and well-known frameworks for experiential learning. The Cycle has four main elements: experience, reflection, conceptualization, and experimentation. 

  • Experience – You experience a situation.
  • Reflection – You reflect on this experience and how it’s different and/or the same as past experiences.
  • Conceptualization – Based on your reflection, you either come up with a new idea or modify an existing concept.
  • Experimentation – You experiment and test this new idea.

Forms of experiential learning

Experiential learning can take on several different forms, including formal programs as well as one-off experiences. 

Examples of experiential learning programs include:

  • Internships
  • Co-ops
  • Apprenticeships
  • Bootcamps
  • Fellowships
  • Research programs
  • Studying abroad

Other examples of experiential learning opportunities include:

  • Workshops
  • Conferences
  • Field trips

Benefits of Experiential Learning

Experiential learning opportunities allow people to:

  1. Explore a career path before committing to it.
  2. Directly apply learnings to professional experiences.
  3. Build teamwork and collaboration skills.
  4. Get feedback, learn from their mistakes, and access a mentor.

Ways to implement experiential learning at your company

When working with apprentices, interns, or new employees, consider which skills can be honed through experiential learning. These activities can take place either internally or externally. Here are some ways to implement experiential learning:

  • Extending learning outside where internal training can be put to use like trade workshops, conferences, or field studies.
  • Build an internship or apprenticeship program and provide opportunities for learners to gain on-the-job experience.
  • Memorization through movement. This is when physicalizing the action through repetitive movements can help memorize steps or techniques such as when you first learn how to type. You type different words and letter sequences over and over again until you have muscle memory of the keyboard layout. 
  • Building communication: trust exercises, listening and relaying information exercises, and practicing giving pitches. Improve team communication through these team trust activities from Tiny Pulse.
  • Project managing skills can come through practicing conflict resolution, leadership, and strategy planning. Placing people in those roles to develop their management skills or creating scenarios to practice leadership and strategizing implements experiential learning.

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