Experiential learning – why is it so powerful?

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

People often ask us why our management and leadership development programmes are experiential and what difference this type of learning makes. Through our combined 60 years plus experience of learning and development, we’ve realised that discussing management theory in the classroom and even writing about the application of theory, no matter how engaging at the time, doesn’t necessarily result in a change in underlying behaviours. This is because the learner plays a relatively passive role, and research suggests that after 3 months, only 10% of what is learned is remembered, a depressing statistic for any trainers out there (Whitmore, 2008). Following classroom based training, managers may tell you what they would do in a given situation (espoused theory, Argyris & Schön, 1974). However, what they say they will do may be very different to what they actually do in practice, when faced with a challenging situation in the workplace.

So … what difference does experiential learning make? Experiential learning is defined as ‘learning through reflection on doing’ (Felicia, 2011). In each of our workshops, people take part in ‘here and now’ experiences which may be outside their comfort zone, and we observe how their behaviour in practice differs from what they say they do, their espoused theory. Feedback in the moment is very powerful and we encourage the whole group to take part in giving and receiving feedback. Alongside this, the one to one coaching we offer between each workshop supports attendees to reflect on the impact of their behaviours and the need for change, and to really embed their learning in the workplace. Where people are told, shown and experience learning, research shows that their recall is 65%. With our programmes, attendees also reflect and have an opportunity to put learning into practice in different situations, and so get the opportunity to experience the entire learning cycle several times. This makes the return on investment of the training much greater and is the very reason why we build experiential learning into our programmes.

Our aim is to help people become authentic and inspiring leaders where what they say they do mirrors what they do in practice. Are people in your organisation authentic and inspiring leaders? Do they do what they say they will do?

If you want to ensure a return on investment for the training people attend, then click here to find out more about our leadership and management development programmes, the next one with places available starts in September 2017.


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