Great deal of work in experiential learning has been done by David Kolb, who outlines experiential learning takes place in a cyclical manner, especially in the area of higher education. 
Youtube, Reynolds, C (2103, December 18) The 3 minute Kolb

Defining experiential learning?

Experiential learning is learning through the act of performing an exercise coupled with relevant theory on the subject matter.

 “Lectures are a way of transferring the instructor’s lecture notes to students’ notebooks without passing through the brains of either”. – Eric Mazur

The first theories of experiential learning arose in the mid-nineteenth century as attempts to move away from traditional formal education, where teachers simply presented students with abstract concepts, and toward an immersive method of instruction. Students would “learn by doing,” applying knowledge to experience in order to develop skills or new ways of thinking (Lewis & Williams, 1994, p. 6).

The notion is that learners retain far greater amount of the material through the actions of actively participating in exercises when paired with discussions. Studies have shown that student’s interest in lectures tends to diminish after ten minutes into lectures and notes are captured in only a small portion of the verbal content. Experiential learning is designed to actively engage the student by building on their past experiences and allowing them to experiment in a safe, student led environment. Experiential learning also uses a great deal of self-reflection to build on new theories learned and relating them to real world scenarios.

New Insights in Adult Education

Looking at some roles Adult Educators play in experiential learning. The first major role is that Educators let the students lead the learning process, the thought is that students through self-discovery guide the learning process. The educator delegates the authority to the students and serves as a guide and resource to the students.

Wurdinger points out that, once a potential activity has been identified, it has to be framed properly to be fully experiential.

First, begin by thinking of problems to be solved rather than information to be remembered (Wurdinger, 2005, p. 51). “A problem or question must be intertwined with activities, projects and field-based experiences. This will help ensure that a combination of thinking and doing occurs in the learning process” (Wurdinger, 2005, p. 13).

Roles of an Adult educator using Experiential learning

I have learned that by creating activities starting with Dewey’s pattern of inquiry that thinking not only happens after an experience but also happens throughout the entire experience. Building on to the inquiry, the student develops a plan to address the problem, tests their plans against reality and then applies what they have learned to create a solution. The experiential component of the model is the application of knowledge (Wurdinger, 2005, p. 8).

Findings that educators should utilize in the classroom are:

1.     Allowing students to makes mistakes. These mistakes leads to a situation where the students retain more information because it is a more challenging learning process (
Wurdinger2005, p. 9).

2.     Importance of personal relevance. Creating an internal interest as opposed to a forced interest makes the student both emotionally and intellectually invested in the learning process (
Wurdinger2005, p. 18).

3.     The importance of why the students are doing something. If the students cannot see the reason behind their project or why they are involved, they may not learn anything at all.

4.     The importance of matching students with appropriate activities. “Not enough challenge may result in boredom, and too much challenge may result in frustration”—in both cases, engagement will drop and learning will cease (
Wurdinger2005, p. 19).

5.     The importance of students reflecting on their experience. Educators need to create an environment for student reflection along with exercise driven questions. This will help students maintain interest, learn successfully and complete their tasks.

6.     The importance of instructor delegating authority to the students. Educators need to serve as a guide and a resource to the students rather than as a leader. Student empowerment needs to be promoted.

Assessments will be reflections based and not necessarily typical quizzes. Students may do oral or journal presentations, essays and self-evaluations.


Self-reflection on experiential learning theory

Some guidelines that I will need to setup in order to create a successful learning environment:

Clear vision and outcomes

Set ground rules

Provide process tools

Create a “thinking as group” environment

Allow student decision making and problem solving

Elect some leaders and decision makers

Provide feedback and debriefing periodically

Some teaching techniques that I will need to enhance on:

Wait time, allow time for students to reflect during lectures

Concept maps, ask learners how they see the topic at hand

Require learners to explain and apply

Questioning to encourage reflection, especially open ended questions


Lewis, L.H. & Williams, C.J. (1994). In Jackson, L. & Caffarella, R.S. (Eds.). Experiential

Learning: A New Approach (pp. 5-16). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experiences as a source of learning and development,     Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

Wurdinger, S.D. (2005). Using Experiential Learning in the Classroom. (pp. 6-51) Lanham: Scarecrow Education.

University of Waterloo. (n.d.) Experiential Learning. Retreived from

Mughal, F., Zafar, A. (2011, December 13)

 Experiential Learning from a Constructivist Perspective: Reconceptualizing the Kolbian Cycle International Journal of Learning & Development ISSN 2164-4063 2011, Vol. 1, No. 2 Doi:10.5296/ijld.v1i2.1179

Schwartz, M. (2012, December 19) The Learning Center: Experiential Learning report. Retrieved from

Reynolds, C. (2013, December 18) The 3 minute Kolb. Retrieved from



12/26/2015 11:13am

This is really great information found here, I really like your blog. Thanks very much for the share. Keep posting

10/14/2016 9:05am

Do you think it's a good idea to try such experimental ways? I want to know your opinion.


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    Naveen Jit
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