Experiential learning may be defined as learning by doing, learning through experience, or learning through taking part in an action. It can be also referred to as an educational orientation that aims to integrate academic and practical components of learning for a wholesome approach, giving the significance of experience for learning. This process is quite well known for being currently used in an informal learning setting such as business internships, corporate attachments, and volunteer and exchange programs.
Experiential learning activities are built on an interdisciplinary and constructive learning foundation. Each subject under this framework is not treated on its own but can be connected to other subjects. In experiential learning, the process of learning is not constricted or compartmentalized, as a result of which it reflects the real-life situation. Experiential learning mimics real-life experiences by creating an interdisciplinary learning experience. To sum up, each person takes away a different lesson from an experience.
Characteristics of Experiential Learning
For a learning method to be experiential, it has to have the following 9 characteristics as listed by Chapman, McPhee, and Proudman,1995:
- A mixture of content and process: the theory content has to balance with the experiential activities.
- No excessive judgment: the presence of a safe space for learners who are going through their self-discovery process.
- Purposeful engagements: the learning has to have meaning to the student engaging in it. The student has to find it relevant to keep learning.
- Encouraging the big picture perspective – learners have to be able to make a connection between what they are learning and the real world. The activities they engage in should enable them to see the relationship in complex structures and get a solution to work with them.
- Reflection: learners should be able to reflect and gain insight into themselves and how they are applying the theory to life.
- Have an emotional attachment: learners should not do what is required or expected of them. They should invest their emotions in their experiences in such a way that they fully immerse themselves in the learning experience.
- Re-examination of values: experiences bring a shift in our values or they reinforce a value. Learners need to re-examine their values during the experience.
- Creation of meaning full relationships: learners should be able to create a relationship with themself, then with fellow learners, teachers, and the learning environment.
- Getting out of one’s perceived comfort zone: learning will be enhanced when one gets out of their comfort zone. Break the barriers of both the physical and social comfort zones. The learner should be able to make decisions and deal with the consequences of their choices. (Chapman, McPhee, and Proudman, 1995)
Importance of Experiential Learning at the Workplace
Experiential learning puts an employee at the center of what they need to know. In recent times more and more organizations are assimilating experiential learning in the workplace. Incorporating the process of experiential learning in the workplace increases the learner’s motivation to learn, it has expanded the transfer of knowledge within the workplace and cultivates more meaningful learning.
“Under this experience-based learning framework, individuals become notably more responsible for their learning, and there exists a more robust link between the learning experience and reality.” (Salas, Wildman, and Piccolo, 2009)
When imparting tacit knowledge, the process has proved itself more efficient than classroom learning as it fosters active participation and complete immersion of learners.
Experience-based activities empower the groups learning abilities, participants exchange knowledge and information, and they are more accustomed to facing real problems. (Rodriguez-Felix, Albert-Morant and Leal-Rodriguez).
Experiential learning at the workplace creates more relatable and relevant learning scenarios for employees, learning effectiveness is increased as everyone is more involved in critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision making. One of the primary reasons it should be a must in the workplace is, that it increases collaboration between employees to work together.
Experiential learning enhances knowledge retention among employees, reflecting, conceptualizing, and planning engage employees to develop skills that facilitate them in their entire professional careers.
The importance of experiential learning in the workplace is undeniable, the process can be scaled up and incorporated at the workplace through the following experiential learning activities:
EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT – This is where experiential learning is the tool kit required for employee engagement, which in turn would leverage the achievements of each and result in employee engagement and growing profits for the organization.
BEHAVIOURAL SKILLS TRAINING – The process enables employees to develop communication power, time management, delegation, project management, and customer service, which in turn adds to their confidence. It enables them to work effectively.
LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT – Developing leaders in an organization and encouraging continuous improvement in the present leaders is very important in an organization. Experiential learning can be used in an organization for mentoring and coaching, change management, strategy development, execution, and team empowerment.
ROLE PLAY – Identify the roles of different participants and rotate the roles within the group to have different viewpoints.
ENGAGE STIMULATION – Have task-based stimulation, functional-based stimulation, or business stimulation, this enables to test and enable employees to act in situations and how they cope under such scenarios.
Experiential Learning benefits at Work
Surveys conducted by the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education that had more than 800 employers participating rated experiential learning highly impacted skill. The survey revealed that experiential learning met the employer’s needs. This was so as employers said, it ensured employability skills were imparted to the learners, making them ready for the work-related environment.
In another study, employers revealed that it was more cost-effective to hire employees who had been into the practice of experiential learning, as they come equipped with certain professional and soft skills needed in the work environment.
In the Journal of Co-operative Education, 36(1), pp.7-22 a study conducted on 100 employers revealed that they valued experiential learning for the following reasons –
- One gets to hire enthusiastic and motivated employees.
- It provides an opportunity to screen learners for future permanent positions.
This indicates experiential learning makes learners more competent in work required skills. The corporate world has now discovered that knowledge is easily absorbed and retained during experiential learning, and thus generates the need for experiential learning in the workplace.
Experiential Learning at GBS
Globsyn Business School has consistently incorporated Experiential Learning methodology in its curriculum framework. This initiative by the B-School enables students to engage in application-oriented learning. The faculty has blended the process of experiential learning in the course to involve students in an application-oriented education process. To do so, the delivery structure has been divided into classroom sessions and Experiential Learning sessions in a 2:1 ratio. Activities, Roleplays, and exercises form an essential part of it, it helps students develop analytically, inter and intrapersonal skills increase logical approach and power of reasoning among students which makes them ready and relevant for the industry. Case-based study, live projects, and use of dance as a pedagogical tool in business communication courses, industry visits, etc form an important part of experiential learning at Globsyn Business School.
Mention must be made of Corporate Connect sessions, a remarkable initiative taken by the B-School includes several phases of real-life corporate issues and experiences in the curriculum. Corporate connect sessions involve dignitaries from various facets of the industry. The students not only get to hear out them rather they are involved in the discourse, they are also involved in these sessions to provide their take in such similar contexts.
Mention must also be made of Boardroom Stimulation, a new addition to the pedagogy of GBS, that emphasizes on experiential learning and case-based learning. In boardroom stimulation students forms different groups, and assume different managerial roles just like in an organization, they work upon particular business crisis situations in an assigned stipulated time to provide apt solutions to them. This entire process is monitored by the faculty of the B-School.
This unique approach in the pedagogy of Globsyn Business School encourages students to imbibe knowledge beyond the knowledge of books, assimilate leadership skills, and practical thinking, they coherently develop rationality and reasonability within themselves. The exposure to Experiential Learning from such a young age, directly or indirectly, makes them ‘Industry Relevant’, and places them much ahead of their contemporaries.