What is Experiential Learning? A Complete Guide

Experiential Learning

23, Nov 2022

Frequent absenteeism, rote memorisation, ineffective learning habits, and lack of appropriate techniques are some crucial drawbacks of the traditional educational system. Moreover, these issues have been the main reason why students fail to improve academically. But if the teachers and institutes strived to deliver their best, why were the students unable to perform according to their expectations?

The answer lies in backdated methodologies that teachers rely upon, and it does not serve to identify learning gaps or contribute insufficiently to achieve learning outcomes. However, the evolving industry demands and global educational trends encouraged institutes to adopt unique methodologies, including experiential learning.

Moreover, a significant aim has been to shift towards more comprehensive development of students. So, instead of sticking to passive learning, teachers incline towards establishing a dynamic classroom approach wherein students participate in their learning process.

What is Experiential Learning?

The word ‘’experiential’’ refers to experience and observation, and integrating that within the educational context makes it a distinctive learning approach. Experiential learning is a technique wherein students actively participate in the process. For instance, teachers don’t limit themselves to traditional classroom practices such as lectures, home tasks, and classwork.

Previously, the pre-established educational system had a linear structure and very rarely did the teachers take any liberty to introduce any changes. On the contrary, the experiential learning method includes several attributes and emphasizes learning by doing or refining a particular mechanism.

Moreover, teachers adopt it as a part of adaptive learning and create opportunities for students to experience learning more directly. Therefore, when they learn core concepts of physics, mathematics, etc., they learn their practical application. Simultaneously, they gain relevant knowledge of real-world experiences, helping them become aware.

As a result, they can polish their skills, making them competent to face challenges.

Stages of Experiential Learning

Stages of Experiential Learning

Is experiential learning a new approach? No, it is an old concept that Aristotle mentioned in detail in his book Nicomachean Ethics. Similarly, Confucius spoke about it during the same period; however, scholars and educators recently adopted it as an educational approach. Besides, in 1984, David Kolb put forth the experiential learning theory, which propounds that people attain knowledge as a result of a transformation of experience taking place in the following stages:

Concrete Experience

Concrete experience occurs when an individual experiences something for the first time and learns from it. Besides, they would get out of their comfort zone and try a specific thing which they may or may not succeed at but gain a memorable experience. Moreover, they might encounter a new situation or reinterpret an existing experience in the context of new concepts.

Reflective Observation

Reflective observation refers to the act of reflecting on new experiences that include both actions and feelings. Moreover, at this stage, people deliberate in detail about what went right and wrong; they also think about how they can improve their experiences. Besides, reflective observation is integral to instructional approaches such as hybrid learning, which stimulates the classroom environment.

Abstract Conceptualization

After reflecting on a particular experience, the person can identify vital attributes, so the next step for them is to decide what they can do differently. Hence, the next stage calls for abstract conceptualization, wherein they plan and brainstorm. As a result, they modify an existing abstract concept and prepare a well-thought-out plan.

Active Experimentation

The final stage of the learning cycle is active experimentation which encourages individuals to implement their ideas into action. Consequently, they put their plans to the test when they face real-life situations.

What is the Best Strategy to Implement Experiential Learning in the Classroom?

Experiential learning meaning self-experience-based learning, relies largely on strategic planning and execution, so it is not dissimilar to other pedagogies. Hence, they can follow the following steps:

First Step

Teachers need to develop a learning lesson to assess the students in the class and identify students’ learning levels. Besides, the initial stage is vital for understanding how many have an experience with the material. At the same time, they need to determine student diversity and if the class requires culturally appropriate instruction.

Second Step

The second step follows after identifying the student population, and it pertains to designing in-class activities. Most importantly, the activities should be in sync with the learning needs of the students and must focus on relevant and specific tasks. Besides, given the time constraint of the class, teachers should explore areas where they can easily implement experiential learning. Also, they must include activities that help to attain course objectives and match students’ learning styles and pace of development.

Third Step

While implementing the instructional approach, teachers need to be mindful of maintaining a balance in applying the activities instead of other lessons. Besides, the method's adequate application requires a considerable amount of time investment. So, they must ensure that their institute provides an appropriate support system throughout the process.

Types of Experiential Learning

Types of Experiential Learning

Educators and institutes always look for ways to elevate students' learning levels by making necessary changes in their instructional approach. Meanwhile, methodologies like experiential learning enable them to motivate students in their academic journey through the following activities:

Case Studies

Case studies are excellent experiential learning activities that engage students to work on real-world problems. So, they must spend time and effort analyzing the situation and finding a possible solution.

Field Experiences

It is a significant observational activity when teachers take students on short field trips to watch a factory operation or performance. Although it is a time-intensive endeavor, it enables them to experience something directly.

Industry/Community Research Projects

Students can work on projects and assignments that require collaborating with industry experts and research facilities. But the institute needs to facilitate adequate support to enable such projects, which should ultimately empower student learning outcomes.

Interactive Classroom

The whole concept of experiential learning centres around active learning, so teachers can integrate several activities to create a stimulating classroom environment. Also, they can implement content or course-specific activities, including simulations, demonstrations, role-plays, etc.


Internships have become a primary part of the higher education curriculum that enables students to work and gain experience in a particular subject or work. Moreover, it expands their knowledge and perspective beyond academics. So, after completing the work based on thorough research and execution, they submit the final report.

Lab Work

Lab work is a mandatory part of specific subjects, allowing students to get hands-on experience with course concepts. Also, with the help of activities like observing, measuring, testing, and experimenting, they get an in-depth analytical understanding.

How Does Experiential Learning Benefit Learners?

  • Experiential learning uses various mechanisms, including auditory learning, that helps to make complicated concepts easy to understand.
  • It helps to increase the engagement quotient in the classroom.
  • The learning method contributes to enhancing students’ problem-solving skills and critical thinking.
  • If someone asked, why is it important? The answer is quite self-evident; experiential learning caters to students' needs and helps to engage learners.
  • It helps establish a connection between concept comprehension and the thinking process, helping students learn successfully.
  • Experiential learning helps develop skills and enables learners to analyze problems and strategize action plans.

In Conclusion,

Experiential learning is a practical instructional approach that teachers can implement in their classes to empower better learning habits. Also, it engages learners and enables students to participate in different in-class activities, boosting their knowledge acquisition and retention.

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Posted By:
Mustak Ahmed

Mustak Ahmed,
Academic Consultant

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