experiential learning

Experiential learning: What is it and why is it important for your growth

Experiential learning encourages active engagement and urges you to work harder to remember them.
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Experiential learning is based on the idea that we learn more through experience. Aristotle himself suggested that we learn better by doing in his book The Nicomachean Ethics. He wrote, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” However, it was psychologist and author, David Kolb who brought the theory of experiential learning to prominence in 1984. He was greatly influenced by the work of other theorists including Kurt Lewin, John Dewey, and Jean Piaget in the 1900s.

According to Kolb, the theory is based on four main elements which operate in a continuous cycle during the learning experience—concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation. As per research titled Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, the process is initiated by a concrete experience. This happens when we try a new task or perform an existing task in a new way. This step aims to create a concrete experience through action.

The second step is reflective observation. This means taking a step back to review and reflect on what we have just experienced. Then comes abstract conceptualisation. Here we try to fit what we have just learned into everything we already know. The final stage is active experimentation. This happens when we consider how we will put what we just learned into practice.

Most of us have had our encounters with this form of learning at some point in our lives. A study titled When Case Studies Are Not Enough: Integrating Experiential Learning into Business Curricula shows that in internships, opportunities in someone’s field of interest can provide them with valuable experiential learning, which can contribute significantly to their overall understanding of the real-world environment.

Kolb says, “The process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming the experience.” Here is how experiential learning can be beneficial for your personal growth.

You are fully engaged in the task

Experiential learning is a process where you learn while performing a task. Every action that you undertake provides you with personalised learning experiences and motivates you to keep going. You go through a learning cycle that involves effort, mistakes, and reflections, followed by fine-tuning of strategies. All these things help you learn new skills, adapt to the changes, grow as an individual, and eventually become successful in life.

Offers a personal experience

Experiential learning offers a personal experience to the learners. For example, if you have always wanted to play the guitar, you may try to pick up the instrument and start playing it yourself by watching YouTube tutorials or by signing up for an online course. Even if you make mistakes at first, you will have a better grasp of what you need to do the next time you play it. You will also find yourself more invested since you are playing the guitar intending to learn something new.

Give opportunities for collaboration

Experiential learning encourages you to interact and connect more with people around you. When you are out in the world, living the experience, you take help from people who can show you a better and more efficient way to do things. By gaining such experiences, you can connect what you have learned from books and lectures to real-life situations. Moreover, as most experiential learning activities are communal in nature, you learn to work in groups. Through team projects, you learn to work more effectively together and capitalise on the strengths of each team member. This way, you can learn how to be a leader and adapt to the changing circumstances.

Builds up your skillset

One of the biggest benefits of experiential learning is that it helps build up your skillset. When you are trying out things for the first time, you are bound to make mistakes. It doesn’t matter whether you are learning to play an instrument or learning how to write an article, when you fail, you will get disappointed. But this form of learning doesn’t discourage you from pursuing your interest. Rather, you are encouraged to stick to the process so that you can work on your shortcomings and become better. As a result, you build persistence towards growth and development.

Encourages you to step out of your comfort zone

Whether you are learning to drive a car or cook a new dish, when you are trying something new, you are stepping out of your comfort zone. You are no longer just thinking about it, but taking an initiative and actually doing it. This is very important for your personal growth. When you are able to break free from the things that are holding you back, you learn to enjoy the process of taking risks, which can help you get closer to success.

Gives an insight into your interests and passions

When you are performing an activity instead of reading up on it, there is a better chance of knowing whether you like it or not. Let’s say, for example, you heard your friend play the piano, and you took an interest in it. So, you also bought a piano and started learning how to play it. But with time, your interest died down. Although you no longer engage in that activity, you gained an insight into your interests and discovered that playing the piano does not give you as much joy as you had expected. In this case, try your hand at different activity and assess whether it aligns with your passions or not.

Boosts self-confidence

When you are allowed to engage in the authentic application of what you are learning about, irrespective of your field, hands-on experience is often what is needed to solidify your understanding of the subject. you start believing in your abilities more because now you have lived that experience. For example, if you want to learn how to prepare a dish, reading up about it isn’t enough. Only when you cook the dish yourself, you will have a better understanding of the required ingredients, the right temperature among other essential things. Once you have that hands-on experience, you will be more confident the next time you are cooking that dish.

Enhances creativity

Most of the problems we face daily usually have more than one solution. Experiential learning urges people to engage their brains and seek a unique solution to a problem. This creative problem-solving helps broaden your perspective and makes you open to new possibilities. When you have an open mind, you can control to urge to react when you hear an opinion or come across a solution that is different from yours.

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