7. December 2017

Experiential learning: what can “experiencing” contribute to learning?

Experiential learning is, simply stated, the process of learning by experiencing. But what does that mean? How is it different from action learning and peer learning?

The term “experiential learning” is above all about each participant’s learning process, which is influenced by factors such as the unique situation of each individual and environmental contexts in which learning takes place.

Precisely because of its attention to individual meaning-making in the learning process, experiential learning is a crucial part of our teaching philosophy at custom programs. Telling participants how to carry out a task or manage a process is a start. However, to generate deep comprehension, we prefer to create an opportunity for them to experience these tasks and processes themselves. Through experiencing, learners have the chance to notice, react to, and deeply absorb the various dimensions of a process or practice. This knowledge doesn’t come for free—participants have to be ready to work! Active engagement, ability to reflect, analytical thinking, and problem-solving skills are critical for learners to benefit fully and apply new knowledge into the contexts of their own lives and work (Kolb 1984). However, they are rewarded with a powerful toolkit and the know-how to employ it.

Photo via Visual Hunt

About the author
Dr. Rachel Brooks Dr. Rachel Brooks is Head of Executive Education at the Competence Center for Social Innovation at the University of St.Gallen (CSI-HSG). Her research and teaching focus on supporting practitioners across government, private and social sectors in cultivating the mindset, skills and tools to nimbly take action towards impact in an environment of mounting complexity and uncertainty. Previously, she worked in Custom Programs at the Executive School at the University of St.Gallen, and in Latin America at the nexus of business, agricultural producers, government and non-profit organizations in the global food industry. Rachel holds a BA from Smith College in Latin American and Latino/a Studies and an MA from New York University in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, where she was awarded the Henry MacCracken Fellowship. At the University of St.Gallen, where she completed her doctoral work, she received a fellowship through the SNF-funded ProDoc in the "Dynamics of Transcultural Management and Governance in Latin America" at the Centro Latinoamericano-Suizo. She earned her PhD in Organization Studies and Cultural Theory in 2016.