Learning through experience is a highly valued approach in organisational learning as it keeps the focus of the learning on practical application.
Learning through experience is about encouraging learners to have a go at putting into practice what they’ve learnt. It’s about applying their learning to the real world, eg on the job (or if that’s not possible then through simulations, case studies etc), and being supported by a facilitator/teacher/coach/mentor to reflect on their efforts to develop their technique to the required standard.
Kolbs 4-stage learning cycle an explanation of the cycle of experiential learning that applies to all learners. http://www.jcu.edu.au/wiledpack/modules/fsl/JCU_090344.html
In this blog I want to share 3 important adult learning theories that underpin experiential learning and by knowing them will help you to design great learning experiences for people. They are:
Here is a brief description of each theory and some ideas for how to use them.
- Theory: Constructivist theories say knowledge is something that the learner builds based on their lived experiences within their socio-cultural contexts.
- Application: Give your learners a variety of learning experiences in different learning environments to encourage them to build the skills and knowledge they need.
- Theory: The learners communities of practice (CoP) play a powerful role in determining what learning is ‘legitimate’ and worth keeping and what learning is not. Social learning theories focus on the importance of the role of social participation in individual learning. It recognises that learning happens ‘in the context of our lived experiences of participation in the world’ (Wenger 1998, p.3).
- Application: Create strong links between the training room and on-the-job learning. Give your learners opportunities to be in different communities of practice (from their substantive team to the broader organization) so they are exposed to a wide range of social learning environments.
- Theory: Repetition is a cornerstone of skill and knowledge development. It is widely held that the best way to really know and do something is to practice it until it becomes part of how we do our work.
- Application: Repetition isn’t about ‘rote’ learning. Repetition is about providing a range of different situations for the learner to ‘repeat’ the application of their skills and knowledge. By doing this, there will be inherent variation because each time the learner does this their understanding changes subtly which then changes how they apply their skills and knowledge.
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Doolittle P.E. & Hicks D. (2003) Constructivism as a Theoretical Foundation for the Use of Technology in Social Studies, Theory & Research in Social Education, 31:1, 72-104, DOI: 10.1080/00933104.2003.10473216
Fenwick, T.J (2001) Experiential Learning: A Theoretical Critique from Five Persectives. Information Services No. 385., Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Washington DC.
Marton & Trigwell (2000) Variatio Est Mater Studiorum pp. 381-395, Higher Education Research and Development, Vol 19. Issue 3 2000
Wenger, E. (2012) Communities of practice and social learning systems: the career of a concept
Wenger, E. (1998), Communities of Practice, Learning, Meaning and Identity, Cambridge University Press, New York NY