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 (full name Brooks-Ames Lachenmeier) has been Program Manager of Custom Programs at the Executive School of Management, Technology and Law (ES-HSG) since January, 2016. From 2011 - 2016, Dr. Brooks completed her doctorate in Organization and Culture at the University of St.Gallen. Her research explored communication structures in multinational companies and in particular, how managers pay attention to internal and external feedback when establishing sustainability initiatives in transnational agricultural supply chains. She holds a bachelor's degree in Latin American and Latino/a Studies from Smith College in Massachusetts, where she was on the Dean's List. She received her master's degree in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from New York University, with full funding from the Henry MacCracken Fellowship.