Experiential learning can be defined as the learning process in which the learners gain knowledge and skills from direct experiences. In other words, it means-learning by doing’. It is one of the best teaching processes as the learners can develop practical thinking through direct experiences. The seeds of pragmatic learning were planted by the two most important scholars- Aristotle and Confucius.
Elements of experiential learning:
From the above definition, we can say that there are various elements that need to be embraced by a course to call it ‘experiential or practical learning’.
- It has to be participative– Learning can be considered as experiential when there is equal participation from both sides i.e. the learners and the stakeholders.
- It has to be interactive– Though most of the learning styles require the interaction of both the students and the teachers, the practical learning experiences lay stress upon a proper communication between the learners and the learners, learners and outside members, and lastly, the learner should also interact with the environment. It is not possible to have all the experiences within the four walls of a classroom. It takes you out of the four walls in order to give a broader picture of reality.
- Multidimensional– Experiential learning takes into consideration various dimensions of the learner- affective, behavioral, and cognitive dimensions.
- Uncertainty– The learners whose mode of study has been ‘rode based’ cannot think beyond their syllabus. This is because they do not have any knowledge about the real world. In experiential learning, the courses have been designed to add variations to the learning sphere. The learners are taught how to deal with uncertain events and situations.
- Feedback– Feedback mechanism is an integral part because it gives a view about what has been learned, and how much has been learned.
Experiential learning in the workplace and its benefits:
Experiential learning in a workplace is a kind of training on-field where the employees directly learn the skills of performing a job. There are four basic components of experiential learning:
- Concrete experience
- Philosophical experience
- Nonfigurative conceptualization
- Active trialing
Some of the greatest benefits of experiential learning can be stated as follows:
- Builds capacity so that the employees can become accustomed to new situations-
When the employees are trained through direct instruction, they do not learn the uncertain challenges that can come up on their ways of working. Direct instruction will include a theoretical perspective and it reduces the employee’s ability to think beyond what has been taught. But when they are trained on the basis of experiential learning, i.e. through internships, the trainees learn the art of tackling new situations. Experiences give them practical knowledge to explore the different aspects of a situation. Learners that learn by doing are responsive and become pliable to new circumstances.
- Able to apply knowledge-
The learners are taught how to deal with different problems so that they can solve the real challenges. There are various formats of training that teach new concepts to the trainees but they do not allow any platform to practice those conceptions. For example, if a program offers a lecture on communication skills, it can help the learners to know about how communication takes place. But if they are not allowed to work in a group or if they are not allowed to be in a situation where communication is important, they will never be able to apply the skills when it is required. As the employees have to deal with different clients, it is important to provide them an environment where they can practice what they had preached.
- Keeps the trainees engaged–
The Development of an employee is a very important aspect but it doesn’t have to be boring at all. However, the entire concept of experiential learning goes in vain if the learners do not pay adequate attention to it. This is one of the reasons why training sessions need to be interactive. It keeps the learners engaged, thus making it an engaging session.
- Assessment of skills
Experiential learning allows learners to access their skills. The data collected from the learning tools can help in getting an insight into how much they have learned during the training sessions. Gaming and simulation programs are an outstanding way to give comprehensive information on the choices made by the employees during the internship. This will help the learners to brush up the skills that require more consideration.
- Gives a measurable result
The best thing about experiential learning is that it allows the employees to go through a lot of experiences while they are in their normal workflow. In other words, it means that the learners are learning within the office while attending a meeting or a conference. They learn how to communicate with the clients and what should be the body language while giving demonstrations. Learning while at work provides a better Return on Investment as it saves costs for training the employees somewhere else.
- Reflective practicing habits
The employees through experiential training develop reflective habits where they can monitor his or her decisions, predict future outcomes, and build up contingency tactics. You can call these people as experts because they can reflect on their attitude and behavior because of the obvious reason that they have had gained more experiences than others. They can integrate philosophical disciplines in their day to day working.
Since ‘learning while doing’ provides an opportunity to the learners about the reality, employees get the liberty to make their own decisions without any fear of losing their jobs. If you confine yourself to theoretical aspects only, you won’t be able to learn the realities of the outer world. There is a huge gap between theory and practice. So, until and unless you experience them while working, you won’t be able to handle any complex situations or clients. You need to apply your experiential knowledge to deal with uncertain situations. Pragmatic learning has proven benefits as it allows the learner to build strong relations and enhances their thinking capabilities.