Theory of Knowledge, Learning & Research Term Paper Experiential Learning‘For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.’ By Aristotle By Pulkit Arora Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, Noida
AbstractThis paper explains the Experiential Learning theories and models given by great psychologists andeducators, and how these frameworks are / can be used practically in order to improve upon thehuman thought process and understand the learning process in a better way. It provides an in depthexplanation of Kolb’s theory, stating its pros and cons and further, how many more theories evolved inorder to improve upon it.What is Experiential Learning?Experiential learning has come to mean two different types of learning: 1. Learning by yourself 2. Experiential educationWith so much attention on simulations and action learning in education literature, its unfortunate thatmany people dont know the underlying discipline of these two topics and arguably the foundation ofmost everything we learn: Experiential Education.The concept of experiential learning explores the cyclical pattern of all learning from Experiencethrough Reflection and Conceptualizing to Action and on to further Experience.Experiential Learning Theory emphasizes on the role that true experiences play in the learning process.It is this emphasis that distinguishes itself from other learning theories. Cognitive Learning Theoriesemphasize on cognition over affect and Behavioral Learning Theories deny any role for subjectiveexperience in the learning process.Scholars in the field of education have two contrasting views when it comes to the concept ofexperiential learning. The first view defines experiential learning as a sort of learning which enablesstudents to apply newly acquired knowledge in a relevant setting. The relevant setting can be asponsored institution of learning with trainers, instructors, teachers, or professors to guide the lesson.The other school of thought defines experiential learning as "education that occurs as a directparticipation in the events of life" (Houle, 1980, p. 221).Kolb furthers the second definition of experiential learning by developing a model which detailslearning process through experiences. Kolb and Frys (1975) experiential learning model is a continuousspiral process which consists of four basic elements: Concrete experience Forming abstract concepts Observation and reflection Testing in new situations
Immediate or concrete experiences are the basis for observation and reflections. These reflections areassimilated and distilled into abstract concepts from which new implications for action can be drawn(Kolb & Fry).According to Kolb and Fry (1975), the adult learner moves to the next step once he or she processestheir experience in the previous step. Thus, learning is not achieved in a formal setting, but in thepractice of reflection of daily experiences.How did it all start?Several authors (e.g., Kraft, 1991; Richards, 1977) have pointed out that experiential learning datesback beyond recorded history and remains pervasive in current society, whether formalized byeducational institutions or occurring informally in day-to-day life. In this sense, experiential learning isnot an alternative approach, but the most traditional and fundamental method of human learning. ‘Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.’ - Aldous HuxleyWhat is experience?Experience refers to the nature of events someone or something has undergone. Experience is what ishappening to us all the time - as we long we exist. Period.Many of us engaged in professional learning have a broad understanding of the work of David A. Kolb.His highly influential book entitled Experiential Learning: Experience as the source of learning anddevelopment was first published in 1984 since when his ideas have had a dramatic impact on thedesign and development of lifelong learning models. Of course, David Kolbs work can be traced backto that famous dictum of Confucius around 450 BC: "Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand."We take in information through our senses, yet we ultimately learn by doing. First, we watch and listento others. Then we try doing things on our own. This sparks our interest and generates our motivationto self-discover.Think back on learning to ride a bicycle, use a computer, dance, or sing. We took an action, saw theconsequences of that action, and chose either to continue, or to take a new and different action. Whatallowed us to master the new skill was our active participation in the event and our reflection on whatwe attained. Experience and reflection taught more than any manual or lecture ever could.Experiential learning thus involves a direct encounter with the phenomena being studied rather thanmerely thinking about the encounter, or only considering the possibility of doing something about it.
In the book ‘Experiential Learning’, David Kolb describes learning as a four-step process. He identifiesthe steps as (1) watching and (2) thinking (mind), (3) feeling (emotion), and (4) doing (muscle). Hedraws primarily on the works of Dewey (who emphasized the need for learning to be grounded inexperience), Lewin (who stressed the importance of a people being active in learning), and Jean Piaget(who described intelligence as the result of the interaction of the person and the environment).Kolb wrote that learners have immediate concrete experiences that allow us to reflect on newexperience from different perspectives. From these reflective observations, we engage in abstractconceptualization, creating generalizations or principles that integrate our observations into soundtheories. Finally, we use these generalizations or theories as guides to further action. Activeexperimentation allows us to test what we learn in new and more complex situations. The result isanother concrete experience, but this time at a more complex level.Experiential Learning (Kolb)David A. Kolb is Professor of Organizational Behavior in the Weatheread School of Management. Bornin 1939, Kolb received his Bachelor of Arts from Knox College in 1961, his MA from Harvard in 1964 andhis PhD from Harvard in 1967. Besides his work on experiential learning, David A. Kolb is also known forhis contribution to thinking around organizational behavior.Building upon earlier work by John Dewey and Kurt Levin, American educational theorist David A. Kolbbelieves “learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation ofexperience” (1984, p. 38). The theory presents a cyclical model of learning, consisting of four stagesshown below. One may begin at any stage, but must follow each other in the sequence: concrete experience (or “DO”) reflective observation (or “OBSERVE”) abstract conceptualization (or “THINK”) active experimentation (or “PLAN”) Figure 1. Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle.
Kolb’s four-stage learning cycle shows how experience is translated through reflection into concepts,which in turn are used as guides for active experimentation and the choice of new experiences. Thefirst stage, concrete experience (CE), is where the learner actively experiences an activity such as a labsession or field work. The second stage, reflective observation (RO), is when the learner consciouslyreflects back on that experience. The third stage, abstract conceptualization (AC), is where the learnerattempts to conceptualize a theory or model of what is observed. The fourth stage, activeexperimentation (AE), is where the learner is trying to plan how to test a model or theory or plan for aforthcoming experience.Kolb and Fry (1975) argue that the learning cycle can begin at any one of the four points - and that itshould really be approached as a continuous spiral.Kolb identified four learning styles which correspond to these stages. The styles highlight conditionsunder which learners learn better. These styles are: Assimilators, who learn better when presented with sound logical theories to consider Convergers, who learn better when provided with practical applications of concepts and theories Accommodators, who learn better when provided with “hands-on” experiences Divergers, who learn better when allowed to observe and collect a wide range of information Learning style Learning characteristic Description strong in practical application of Abstract conceptualization + ideas Converger active experimentation unemotional has narrow interests strong in imaginative ability Concrete experience + good at generating ideas Diverger reflective observation interested in people broad cultural interests strong ability to create theoretical Abstract conceptualization + models Assimilator excels in inductive reasoning reflective observation concerned with abstract concepts rather than people greatest strength is doing things more of a risk taker Concrete experience + active Accommodator performs well when required to experimentation react to immediate circumstances solves problems intuitively
Understanding ones preferred learning style has two benefits: It helps us understand our areas of weakness, giving us the opportunity to work on becoming more proficient in the other modes. Or, it helps us realize our strengths, which might be useful in certain social situations, such as deciding on a career.Even today, most education is still essentialist, an approach that ignores learner experience. It alsoallows teachers to cover materials in a way that best fits the diversity of the classroom.Elaborations of the Experiential Learning CycleNot all forms of skill and knowledge emphasize all the stages of the Cycle to the same extent, and Kolbhas carried the argument further by relating topics and subject areas to the cycle in the following ways: Concrete Experience corresponds to "knowledge by acquaintance", direct practical experience (or "Apprehension" in Kolbs terms), as opposed to "knowledge about" something, which is theoretical, but perhaps more comprehensive, (hence "Comprehension") and represented by Abstract Conceptualization. This distinction was first made by Aristotle, and has been discussed by epistemologists ever since.
Reflective Observation concentrates on what the experience means to the experiencer, (it is transformed by "Intension") or its connotations, while Active Experimentation transforms the theory of Abstract Conceptualization by testing it in practice (by "Extension") and relates to its denotations.Summary: A four-stage cyclical theory of learning, Kolb’s experiential learning theory is a holisticperspective that combines experience, perception, cognition, and behavior.Limitations of Kolbs TheoryNot all writers agree with Kolbs theory. Rogers, for example points out that "learning includes goals,purposes, intentions, choice and decision-making, and it is not at all clear where these elements fit intothe learning cycle.” Moreover, referring to (Boud et al 1983), it claims that, “Kolb’s theory paysinsufficient attention to the process of reflection itself”. David Kolb is putting forward a particularlearning style. The problem here is that the Experiential Learning Model does not apply to allsituations. There are alternatives - such as Information Assimilation. There are also others such asMemorization. Each of these may be appropriate to different situations.As Anderson (1988, cited in Tennant 1996) highlights, there is a need to take account of differences incognitive and communication styles that are culturally-based. Here we need to attend to differentmodels of selfhood - and the extent to which these may differ from the western assumptions thatunderpin the Kolb and Fry model.
Major DevelopmentsPeter Jarvis on (experiential) learningJarvis (1987, 1995) set out to show that there are a number of responses to the potential learningsituation. He used Kolbs model with a number of different adult groups and asked them to explore itbased on their own experience of learning. He was then able to develop a model of which alloweddifferent routes. Some of these are non-learning, some non-reflective learning, and some reflectivelearning.Non-learning:Presumption: This is where people interact through patterned behaviour. Saying hello etc.Non-consideration: Here the person does not respond to a potential learning situation.RejectionNon-reflective:Pre-conscious: This form occurs to every person as a result of having experiences in daily living that arenot really thought about i.e. skimming across the surface.Practice: Traditionally this has been restricted to things like training for a manual occupation oracquiring particular physical skills. It may also refer to the acquisition of language itself.MemorizationReflective learning:Contemplation: Here the person considers it and makes an intellectual decision about it.Reflective: This is close to what Schön describes as reflection on and in action.Experiential learning: The way in which pragmatic knowledge may be learned.Experiential Learning (C. Rogers)Rogers distinguished two types of learning: cognitive (meaningless) and experiential (significant). Theformer corresponds to academic knowledge such as learning vocabulary or multiplication tables andthe latter refers to applied knowledge such as learning about engines in order to repair a car. The keyto the distinction is that experiential learning addresses the needs and wants of the learner.Rogers lists these qualities of experiential learning: personal involvement evaluated by learner self-initiated pervasive effects on learnerTo Rogers, experiential learning is equivalent to personal change and growth. Rogers feels that allhuman beings have a natural propensity to learn; the role of the teacher is to facilitate such learning.
This includes: setting a positive climate for learning clarifying the purposes of the learner(s) organizing and making available learning resources balancing intellectual and emotional components of learning sharing feelings and thoughts with learners but not dominating.According to Rogers, learning is facilitated when: (1) the student participates completely in the learningprocess and has control over its nature and direction, (2) it is primarily based upon direct confrontationwith practical, social, personal or research problems, and (3) self-evaluation is the principal method ofassessing progress or success. Rogers also emphasizes the importance of learning to learn and anopenness to change.Rogers theory of learning evolved as part of the humanistic education movement (e.g., Patterson,1973; Valett, 1977)Why Experiential Learning is so Effective (Luckner & Nadler), 2004EqualityIt provides a common and yet novel experience where all participants are equal in their knowledgeabout the tasks and projects that will confront them. A unique set of projects and situations requirespeople to draw upon genuine team process skills as opposed to just functional ones.DisequilibriumThe unfamiliarity of the challenges and problems places people in a state of disequilibrium or disorder.They cannot easily stand behind their normal status, roles, and defenses. This can allow emphasis to beplaced upon both task and process related themes as the group has to organize itself around thechallenge.Projective techniqueIn organizing the instability or disequilibrium, the group projects their problem-solving skills, projectmanagement ability, and leadership style onto the experience. The experience provides a uniqueopportunity to catch participants doing what they typically do, in spite of knowing otherwise.Decreased time cycleThe space between the project or challenge and the outcomes are compressed, so the consequencesof organizational decisions can be easily examined and improved. Typically in an organization, there ismore of a time lag and more variables to consider, so any review or learning risks being diluted ordelayed.
Meta LearningIn the experiential learning laboratory", as the projections and simulations shed light on the teamsprocess, the group is asked to step back and evaluate their performance. The review is aboutthemselves, their leadership, and problem solving skills, teamwork, and communication and managingchange.Chaos and Crisis in a Safe EnvironmentTeams are able to experience chaos, disorder, crisis, and changing requirements for success in a safeenvironment where the consequences for failure are limited. The team can develop strategies and bestpractices for managing these issues both in this environment and back at work.Kinesthetic ImprintExperiential learning is an anchor for cognitive material. Participants have a kinesthetic imprint orwhole body learning of cognitive principles because the learning is graphic as it involves physical,mental, and behavioral dimensions.Common language / company mythologyThe experience provides a common language, experience, and story, which can be related to the workenvironment. The experience can provide a short cut in communicating a shared vision very quickly.The experience (and stories attached thereto) can serve as a catalyst for continuing the theme in theorganization.Encourage Risk TakingThe experience allows participants to take new risks, try on new roles, and make mistakes with nodanger or cost. Risks are naturally perceived rather than actual. Each person taking a risk pushes othersto take on something outside of their comfort zone.Diversity of StrengthsThe team challenges and activities are designed to include a variety of elements that will challenge arange of team role skills. In other words input from all team members will be required to produceoutcomes from projects specifically designed not to suit just one team role style or behavior. Oneperson cannot possibly succeed alone and so the interdependence of the team is highlighted alongwith the importance of diversity within the team.
Applications in Computer Science 1. Mei-Fen Chen, “Integrate Experiential Learning to Simulate a Website Design Project Process”, ISBN 978-1-60558-466-9/08/0008The current literature suggests that experiential learning is a necessary component of formalinstruction in higher education. Experiential learning as a formal part of college and university curriculaextends across the range of subject areas and disciplines. Based on the conceptualization inexperiential learning and Internet technology development, a teaching and learning project flows inthe practice of web design development is designed to facilitate students in this process. The casestudy approach is utilized to proceed through a university service-learning project. Following theproject, students keep tracking qualitative journals based on their weekly learning and executionexperiences; a number of semi-structured interviews are conducted with students and faculty in orderto get an insight into their perceptions and experiences of the learning exercise. This result of studybenefits the academic community with an understanding of the theory to practice between education,work, and technology. The finding also brings positive impact for program design and developmentand operation in web learning community. 2. IGOR M. VERNER, “Robot Contest as a Laboratory for Experiential Engineering Education”, 2005 ACM 1531-4278/04/0600-ART1Many educators have found that robotics is a suitable subject for project-based learning atundergraduate and high school levels. Experience in designing, building, and operating robots leads tothe acquisition of knowledge in high-tech engineering areas and promotes development of systems-thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork skills that are in high demand in industry. The involvement ofstudents in a robot contest offers the additional educational benefits of a focused, open-ended,interdisciplinary project that is a strong motivator of student creativity, self-directed learning, andresearch. Following the Kolbian approach, this article presents ways to integrate experiential learningcycles in robot design projects and to evaluate their outcomes. The team has provided an example ofan undergraduate introductory course that uses the fire-fighting contest as the medium forexperiential learning of engineering design concepts and the development of the students’ technicalknowledge and skills.
3. Francis Suraweera, “Enhancing the Quality of Learning and Understanding of First-Year Mathematics for Computer Science Related Majors”, SIGCSE Bulletin, Vol. 34, No 4, 2002 DecemberMost courses on discrete mathematics are designed to emphasize knowledge acquisition, and aregiven to large first year classes, in general. When the goal is to cover the content, the understandingtakes a second place. This practice leads to non-enjoyment of the course, a great deal of anxiety, poorperformance, and a large percentage of failures. On the surface, it appears that we have to tell storiesand keep them entertained in the classrooms. In contrast, what is actually happening is that they areassisting the freshmen students in developing strategies to pick up the major concepts (theabstractions, the theory etc.) by relating to the students’ experience. Effective instruction builds uponthis experience deliberately because functionally individuals will interpret and incorporate new ideasthrough their existing frames of reference. The author firmly believes that, as according to Kolb’slearning model individuals form abstract concepts and generalizations by reflecting on experience,good instruction should guide students consciously through this process. 4. Ed Crowley, “Experiential Learning and Security Lab Design”, 2004 ACM 1-58113-936-5/04/0010Awareness of the need for Information Systems Security continues to expand. This expansion hascreated a need for security focused lab modules. By design, these lab modules should optimize studentlearning experiences. By incorporating Kolb’s experiential learning model helps assure an optimumlearning experience. This work, presents procedures and methodologies utilized in developing securitylab modules. As part of the pre-lab, the students are asked to vision what the lab results will be,providing the students with a structured opportunity for abstract conceptualization (AC). Prior to goingto the lab, the students are given a demonstration (RO). During the lab, the students work throughstructured lab exercises. This provides the students with concrete experience. Here, the students “getthe feel” of the tools by installing, configuring, and using them (AE). Post lab exercises provide moreopportunity for reflecting upon their concrete lab experiences. Finally, the lab finishes with an abstractsection where the students are asked to envision future labs.
A Quick Recap Experiential learning recognizes that people learn best from their own experiences and their own reviews. It subscribes to the notion that what people do is more important than what they know. Experiential learning renders behaviors and attitudes visible and thereby can become acknowledged and then addressed. Experiential learning is built on the premise that it is not enough to explain to people what to do, they must be shown how to actually do it and then how to improve it It moves beyond knowledge and into skill by generating a learning experience - the more experience the greater the skill. Experiential learning understands that to be remembered over a long period of time the learning process should be enjoyable, motivating, and rewarding.References1. Overview of 9 Experiential Learning Cycle Models [http://wilderdom.com/experiential/elc/ExperientialLearningCycle.htm]2. Experiential Learning articles and critiques of David Kolbs theory [http://www.reviewing.co.uk/research/experiential.learning.htm#26]3. david a. kolb on experiential learning [http://www.infed.org/biblio/b-explrn.htm]4. kolb learning styles [http://www.businessballs.com/kolblearningstyles.htm]5. Experiential Learning Cycles [http://reviewing.co.uk/research/learning.cycles.htm]6. David Kolb, The Theory of Experiential Learning and ESL [http://iteslj.org/Articles/Kelly- Experiential/]7. Stavenga de Jong, J.A., Wierstra, R.F.A. and Hermanussen, J. (2006) "An exploration of the relationship between academic and experiential learning approaches in vocational education8. Smith, M. K. (2001) David A. Kolb on experiential learning, the encyclopedia of informal education, [http://www.infed.org/b-explrn.htm]