By Liz Sebag-Montefiore, 10Eighty, Director
At 10Eighty, we believe the most frequent criticism levelled at learning and development offers is that they fail to embed the learning in the business. Quality learning and development initiatives enable learners to take what they have learned and apply it in the real world. Today, more than at any other time, learning agility – being able to respond rapidly to fast-changing business conditions – is a key skill.
Seventy percent (70%) of learning is done through challenging assignments and projects; this is experiential learning. It allows individuals to actively engage with learning material and apply their new knowledge in a real-world context, which leads to a deeper understanding and better retention of knowledge. Experiential learning is also referred to as learning through action, learning by doing, learning through experience, and learning through discovery and exploration.
Research suggests that the most effective learning occurs when it is balanced between experiential, social and formal training. Practicality suggests that it is most useful to put the emphasis on hands-on learning and learning from others through social interactions when organising training.
Experiential learning is key
Experiential learning is important because it allows learners to actively engage with and reflect on their experiences, which translates to a deeper understanding of the material and improved retention of knowledge. It also enables them to apply their learning in a real-world context, which makes the learning more relevant and meaningful.
Experiential learning also tends to foster creativity and problem-solving skills, because learners are confronted with challenges and the need to find ways to deal with them. As individuals learn from their mistakes and successes and apply that learning to real world situations, their personal growth and development is enhanced.
Overall this is an effective way to learn because it enables learners to actively engage with training material and apply their learning in context. It works because through the experiential process, the learner actively engages in posing questions, investigating, experimenting, being curious, solving problems, assuming responsibility, being creative and exploring process and meaning.
The importance of social learning
Social learning, or learning from others through social interactions is important because it allows individuals to benefit from the experience and knowledge of others. It’s an effective way to learn new skills and information and fosters collaboration and teamwork.
Most of us find that we learn as much from fellow learners as we learn from tutors and coursework. As we work together to solve problems and achieve shared objectives, it creates a sense of community and support, beneficial for both personal and professional development.
It is also important because it affords opportunities for learners to benefit from a wide range of sources and experiences, broadening their understanding and offering a range of different perspectives.
Putting it to work
Without some form of revision or reinforcement, most people will forget a significant portion (around 80%) of the information they have learned within a short period of time (around 30 days).
Experiential learning can help combat that loss of learning by providing the opportunity for learners to actively engage with and apply the material they have learned, as opposed to simply passively absorbing information. It is the active engagement that reinforces the learning, making it more meaningful, and increasing retention.
This is because experiential learning usually involves reflection on one’s own experiences and the opportunity to learn from successes and mistakes, which also helps to reinforce the learning. The active application and reflection on learning material enables the integration of that learning into long-term memory.
Make it stick
Experiential and social learning are practical and cost-effective routes to learning, with many benefits, including:
- The opportunity to apply learning and new knowledge in the real world.
- Experiential learning often involves working in a team, so learning in this setting allows students to practice teamwork.
- Learners are motivated and committed when learning in experiential settings.
- The opportunity for reflection when learners are able to reflection on what they are experiencing and learning.
- Real world practice where experiential learning is focused on using real situations to help employees learn, so they are then better prepared for their working future.
Experiential learning gives learners the time and space to participate in the process of learning by engaging in real situations that reflect their work-life context and lived experience.