Benjamin Franklin once said:
‘Tell me and I forget.
Teach me and I remember.
Involve me and I learn’
Experiential learning is different to traditional learning because its purpose is to get people involved and challenge their thinking. How do you like to learn? What makes you remember things? Is it sitting and listening? Is it watching or reading? Is it taking notes? Or do you learn and remember best of all when you’re actively involved in a project or experience?
Traditional teaching methods focus on transferring skills or knowledge from one person to another. This is fine and works well, but is not always the best way to engage people in learning and activate their brains effectively enough to make sure the learning sticks.
Experiential learning teaches the subject and transfers the knowledge at the same time as increasing learner confidence, self-esteem and sense of purpose. Experiential learning is used regularly in scientific and medical industries because it’s clear that using real-life cases and people will be more beneficial than reviewing the theory. Just as someone learning to be a doctor should get to experience being in an operating theatre and examine a real person, teams in all industries should be immersed in experiences that mirror their real working lives. This experiential learning is what cements their knowledge and gives them the opportunity to test their skills.
The key differences between traditional and experiential learning
Experiential learning is achieved through experience and involvement rather than teaching or training. It’s a hands-on learning experience that immerses an employee as far as possible, in the emotion and reality of a situation or task, and it’s the opposite end of the learning spectrum to sitting in a room being talked to. The image below outlines the difference between traditional and experiential learning.
Examples of experiential learning
If you like the idea of experiential learning and you’d like to give it a try in your company, there are a range of activities you can start with. You can try an emergency planning scenario exercise, where you stage an emergency and test how your teams would cope. This would be done as role play, so everyone would act as if the situation was actually happening. Every phone call, every conversation, every action taken would be part of the exercise. The emergency services hold these type of exercises regularly, for example the police simulating a terrorist attack on the River Thames.
Role playing is also a great experiential training activity. This will help your teams develop solutions to specific work problems by looking at them from a new perspective. This can be done across teams to broaden thinking, for example getting an IT expert to role play a customer and asking a customer service colleague to play the role of a quality auditor.
Use experiential learning as part of your team development strategy
Experiential learning can be included as part of coaching, mentoring and group facilitation to help your teams solve problems, become more innovative and increase their effectiveness. Experiential that’s learning developed by learning experts will test and challenge your teams in new ways. If you need support to bring experiential learning to your teams, you can talk to Catalyst. Get in touch to find out more.