"Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand”
What is Experiential Learning?
Experiential learning focuses on learning for the individual. As an example imagine explaining how a software tool works by describing it as opposed to allowing the learner to use the tool to acquire first-hand experience. Similarly for soft skills training, Experiential Learning means placing the learner in a relevant context, roleplaying a particular situation or going through a difficult conversation while understanding what works and what doesn’t. This is in contrast with simply being told what to do when you find yourself in a particular situation.
Why Experiential Learning matters?
Experiential Learning encourages an individual to use his own initiative when learning, become curious about various methods, find out what works for him best and finally evaluate his own performance as he goes through the experience. Because the learner is encouraged to get involved in the subject matter rather than passively consuming information, he is more likely to learn and retain that learning experience in the future.
What is the difference between Experiential Learning and traditional classroom techniques?
Traditional classroom techniques are mainly lecture driven with large number of learners present in the class. The learners are effectively expected to listen and understand. Numerous studies show that there can be several problems with this method:
- The learning experience is slow. The trainer may have to cover a topic several times before it is fully understood.
- The traditional lecturing method puts more pressure on the trainer than the learner. The trainer does most of the work, most of the talking and most of the thinking, while the learner passively listens. Many studies show that human attention span is much smaller than the duration of a typical class. Leaners are likely to drift, day dream, fall behind or simply loose interest in the topic. This is the opposite of what we desire.
- The information exchange is one-directional from a trainer to learners. Learners are not encouraged to learn from each other and the trainer does not have an opportunity to understand where learners struggle or where they need most training.
- Learners are treated the same way irrespective of their learning styles and capabilities.
What does Experiential Learning mean to you as a trainer?
To be an effective trainer, you must create an immersive environment for your learners. This allows your learners to gain knowledge from you, from other learners and the environment you have created for them. This accelerates learning and makes it much more personal. Your aim is to get them excited and enthusiastic about the topic so that they get hooked on the experience.
Many techniques are used to enhance the learning environment and engage the leaners. For soft skills courses, some examples are given below:
- Allow learners to explore the subject in their own time
- Use role plays with heavy emphasis on conversational techniques to help learners improve their communication skills across the board
- Create novel exercises that appeal to all the senses. This makes the experience more memorable and hence more useful in the future
- Get the learners to get off their chairs and use all their senses, interact with the subject matter, role play with others in real-world scenario and interact with props.
- Reduce monotone lecturing and replace it with materials that constantly force learners to think and evaluate their current knowledge.
- Encourage problem solving rather than passive listening
- Praise learners for their achievements so they are encouraged to put more effort into learning the skills.
How Experiential Learning is used in the development of our training materials?
At Skills Converged, we aim to design our courses with Experiential Learning in mind. Our aim is to satisfy two critical needs:
- Maximise training and knowledge transfer for learners for a given time
- Reduce pressure and stress on trainers and make it as easy as possible for them to pick up the content and deliver it, while satisfying the above need
When developing our training materials, we pay a lot of attention to these two needs and carry out various tests to make sure they are satisfied. For example we consider the following:
- Numerous sessions follow our unique Try, Practice, Demonstrate methodology of teaching.
- Learning is centred on experience. All topics are followed by extensive exercises to encourage the delegates to immediately try the new skills, unlearn bad habits and progress forward to replace them with new techniques.
- Extensive trainer guidelines and scripts are provided which help trainers to constantly engage the learners, keep them interested in the topic and help them to question their current assumptions and skills. This is an effective way in teaching soft skills since most people simply develop their skills through trial and error as they grow and may never question many of their behaviours. The first step in learning a new soft skill is to understand and accept that they might have been wrong before.
Based on Experiential Learning, we have established proven design patterns which we use in all our courses for maximum consistency and efficiency. Of course, we constantly look for ways to improve our training methods. We have the privilege to benefit both from direct learner feedback in our own course delivery as well as trainers’ feedback when they use our training resources to deliver their own courses. Together, this allows us to produce state-of-the-art training products.
David Kolb’s Model of Experiential Learning