In this Ultimate Guide to Demystifying Experiential Learning will answer all the questions you have about experiential learning – from how experiential learning works within educational settings through to examples of how learners have benefited from immersing themselves into real-life scenarios.
Experiential learning is becoming increasingly popular among educators and students as they look to boost engagement, increase motivation, foster deeper levels of understanding, and make lasting impressions in the classroom.
In this blog post we’ll explore what experiential learning is, who can use it, how it can be used in the classroom, and other potential learning situations. We’ll also outline the benefits of this positive psychology approach to education.
Whether you are an educator looking to advance their teaching practice or are looking to add another strategy to your teacher toolkit, it is important to keep advancing your knowledge and skills to keep up! So let’s dive in.
What Is Experiential Learning?
Experiential Learning is a positive psychology method hailed as one of the most effective strategies for teaching and learning.
Experiential learning puts students into real-life scenarios where they can interact with their environment and gain experience that cannot be gained by simply reading textbooks or engaging in an online course.
Experiential learning in informal educational settings.2
This type of learning involves more than just the delivery of facts. It is a process wherein students learn through direct experiences, such as hands-on activities, simulations, field trips and other forms of experiential learning provide an opportunity for students to be actively engaged in their learning.
Experiential Learning Theory
Kolb’s Learning Styles is an educational theory from the early 1950s that helped to shape experiential learning.
It proposed that there are three distinct learning styles – visual, auditory and tactile/kinesthetic – and that each student learns differently.
This led to the idea that teaching strategies should be tailored to meet each student’s individual needs for optimal learning outcomes.
Why is Kolb’s Theory Important?
Kolb’s theory of experiential learning is still very relevant today. It has evolved over the years, but its core tenets remain – that a student should learn by doing and gain knowledge through experience.
Not only did he provide a theoretical model for how experiential learning works, but through Kolb’s Learning Styles he also gave educators the tools to create an effective learning environment which we still use today.
He also defined a learning cycle, which outlines four stages of learning that should be used to guide the experiential learning process.
Experiential Learning Process
Briefly put, the experiential learning process consists of four stages:
- Concrete experience (doing)
- Reflective observation (observing)
- Active experimentation (thinking)
- Abstract Conceptualism (planning)
In other words, experiential learning is not just about doing activities; it’s about understanding, reflecting, and applying the knowledge gained in order to gain a deeper level of understanding.
How Does Experiential Learning Work?
This hands-on approach to education emphasizes the value of experience in the learning process.
In a traditional classroom setting, students sit and listen to lectures, but with experiential learning, they actively participate in their own learning.
By experiencing something firsthand, students are able to connect the theory to real-world situations and gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
Experiential learning can take many forms, whether it’s through simulations, internships, or field trips. It’s all about creating an environment where students can engage with the material in a meaningful way.
Experiential Learning Opportunities in the Classroom
Experiential learning in the classroom can be used to promote a variety of teaching strategies. Here are just some of the strategies you can use:
Role-playing is a great way to teach topics such as communication, interpersonal skills, and team building. By ‘acting out’ scenarios, students can gain insight into different perspectives and how to navigate tricky situations.
Creating simulations in the classroom is a popular experiential learning strategy that can be used to teach a range of topics, from physics to the stock market. Students are put into a real-life scenario and must make decisions based on their understanding of the subject matter.
Hands-on laboratory experiments
Biology, chemistry, and physics are all great subjects for experiential learning. By carrying out hands-on experiments in the laboratory, students can gain an understanding of how scientific principles work on a practical level.
Taking students on field trips is one of the most popular ways of implementing experiential learning, as it allows them to physically engage with their environment and gain new experiences.
The key is to create an environment where students can explore, test new ideas, and discuss concepts in a safe space.
This type of learning also helps to develop problem-solving skills and critical thinking abilities.
These activities provide students with the opportunity to connect with their environment and gain valuable experience.
Examples of Experiential Learning Tasks
- Baking a cake
- Playing a sport
- Going on a nature walk
- Visiting an art gallery or museum
Experiential learning is an excellent way to increase student engagement and motivation in the classroom, as it encourages students to take ownership of their own learning. It also helps foster deeper levels of understanding, enabling students to make connections between the real world and what they are learning in school.
They can also make learning fun!
Benefits Of Experiential Learning For Learners Of All Ages
Experiential learning helps students to develop important skills such as;
Improved cognitive skills
Experiential learning helps to develop problem-solving skills, critical thinking abilities, and creativity.
When students engage in experiential learning activities they are more likely to be motivated and pay attention in class.
Experiential learning allows students to understand concepts on a deeper level as they are able to physically engage with their environment and gain new experiences.
Through role-playing and other experiential learning activities, students will learn how to communicate effectively, both with their peers and with adults.
Experiential learning activities can help to boost students’ self-confidence, as they are given the opportunity to take risks in a safe environment.
Foster critical thinking skills
Experiential learning encourages students to think outside the box and develop their own solutions to problems.
Experiential activities breathe new life into traditional content and can be used to give students a fresh perspective on traditional topics, and can help them make connections between academic knowledge and real-world applications.
By working together to solve problems, experiential learning can help foster teamwork skills, communication abilities and problem-solving techniques.
It also encourages students to take initiative and responsibility for their own learning, as they are given the opportunity to explore a subject in-depth and come up with solutions independently.
Experiential learning is also an invaluable tool for teaching abstract concepts, as it gives students the chance to put their knowledge into practice in real-life scenarios.
It can also be used within corporate settings to improve hands-on activities, project-based learning and other forms of experiential learning can help develop essential skills such as communication, collaboration, critical analysis and problem solving.
Who Can Use Experiential Learning?
Experiential learning is suitable for any age group or skill level, from basic kindergarten, or elementary school learners, through to college, higher education, student teaching, career development and beyond.
Young children benefit greatly from this method by discovering the world through play while teenagers develop leadership qualities and learn teamwork through experiential learning activities.
When it comes to adults, experiential learning is a tool for personal and professional development, where individuals can gain new skills or advance their knowledge.
Many higher education institutions are adopting experiential education as integrating experiential learning principles are allowing them to develop skills which will prepare them for the world of work.
Whether it’s a research trip, science experiment or civic engagement, students of all ages and stages can benefit from direct experience, learning new skills in real-world scenarios.
Overall, experiential learning provides a fun and engaging way to learn that benefits all age groups.
Furthermore, it can help foster collaboration between students of all ages, as they must work together to solve problems presented during simulations or role plays.
Why the 21st Century Workplace Needs Experiential Learners
In a modern world that relies heavily on technology and innovation, employers need workers who can come up with creative solutions to complex problems and think outside the box.
Experiential learners have these skills – they are able to take initiative, draw connections between different ideas, be engaged intellectually and come up with new solutions.
They are also typically better communicators in challenging situations, as they have had the opportunity to practice their interpersonal skills in real-life scenarios.
These qualities make experiential learners valuable assets to any organization looking for creative and innovative employees.
Kolb’s theory of experiential learning is still a vital part of modern education. It provides students with the opportunity to gain invaluable experience, while developing important skills such as problem solving and critical thinking.
Other Learning Situations For Experiential Learning
When we think of experiential learning, we often visualize the traditional classroom setting.
However, experiential learning can take place in many other situations beyond the four walls of a lecture hall.
For example; team-building exercises, internships, and volunteer work are all potential learning situations where students can gain hands-on experience and develop new skills.
Virtual simulations and role-playing activities are also becoming increasingly popular as effective experiential learning tools. By providing engaging and interactive learning opportunities, experiential learning can truly enhance students’ education and prepare them for real-world success.
So, think beyond the classroom and explore the many other potential learning situations where experiential learning can be utilized.
Tips on Incorporating Experiential Learning
Are you someone who learns best by doing? If traditional classroom-style learning isn’t your forte, experiential learning might be just the thing for you.
This approach to education involves hands-on, active experiences that participants engage in, rather than simply observing or reading about.
But experiential learning isn’t limited to just the classroom – it can be incorporated into your personal life as well. Whether it’s trying out a new hobby or signing up for an adventure sport, there are plenty of ways to engage in experiential learning outside of work or school.
By actively pursuing new experiences and learning in a hands-on way, you can not only gain new skills and knowledge but also have a lot of fun along the way.
Practicing Experiential Learning has the potential to improve educational experiences in several areas, as well as enhance your own personal and professional development.
Many people benefit from the experience of learning through this method in both the classroom and various other contexts.
So why not try these methods out for yourself? You just might be surprised at how much you learn!
- Murray, R. (2018). An Overview Of Experiential Learning In Nursing Education. Advances in Social Sciences Research Journal, 1(5). https://doi.org/10.14738/assrj.51.4102
- Gross, Z. and Rutland, S. D. (2017) ‘Experiential learning in informal educational settings’, International review of education, 63(1), pp. 1–8. doi: 10.1007/s11159-017-9625-6.
- Vinukonda, P. S. (2018) Using Kolb’s Learning Styles To Create Engaging Custom eLearning Courses, eLearning Industry. Available at: https://elearningindustry.com/using-kolbs-learning-styles-engaging-custom-elearning-courses
- Heinrich, W. F., Habron, G., Johnson, H. M., Goralnik, L. (2015). Critical Thinking Assessment Across Four Sustainability-related Experiential Learning Settings. Journal of Experiential Education, 4(38), 373-393. https://doi.org/10.1177/1053825915592890