How experiential learning improves performance

experiential learning

It is common knowledge that you learn more by doing than you ever learn from reading about something or hearing about it. If we take the example of learning to play tennis, you can read all the technical books in the world but unless you actually pick up, the racket, and get some experiential learning in to have a go you will never master the skill.

Experiential learning is just a widely used phrase for what is essentially the way human beings learn. We have practiced it since we were children. When we started to walk we stood up, fell over, learnt to balance, stood up again and eventually perfected the art. We didn’t need a manual to help us we just adjusted our ‘performance’ until we got it right.

This type of learning is what effective coaching is based on. Sports coaches instinctively use the ‘notice what you notice’ approach to help people to hone their skills and achieve success in their chosen field. If we return to the tennis example mentioned earlier, a tennis coach might facilitate someone to notice how to hold the racket to get the best results and how to stand to be in the best place to return a shot. Then the person has to actually do it and notice what the effect is.

This brings us on to an important part of experiential learning which is about reviewing the learning after it has happened. In order to gain maximum benefit from any learning opportunity you must reflect on it. In the above example the person learning tennis may conclude that their posture needs to be adjusted next time.

Although so far in this article we have described experiential learning in the context of children and sports, it is just as valid when addressing learning and development needs in business. At Thales Learning & Development experiential learning has an influence across our learning and development interventions. For example on our coaching skills courses we give people the practical experience of being coached and coaching others so they can gain real first-hand experience.

At Thales Learning & Development we are taking experiential learning to a whole new level and are using some innovative and ground breaking learning activities within our programmes. We are in the process of developing a programme with one of our clients which uses horse-whispering techniques as a mechanism for getting people to be more aware of their communication skills.

As part of our Future Leaders’ Programme we will be taking managers to a state-of the-art fire fighting training centre to have the experience of preparing to and controlling a fire in very challenging circumstances. At first this may not seem entirely relevant to business people, however, we believe that this kind of exercise is invaluable for exploring teamwork, leadership, communication skills and resilience.

To keep your finger on the pulse of new learning techniques and technologies, subscribe to Enhance. For instance, issue 6 investigates virtual reality and its role within learning.

Obviously, the key once again is about reflecting on the experience in order to ensure that the learning is drawn out and the lessons are applied to the workplace.  An effective de-brief is essential following any experiential learning activity as is a commitment to taking the learning forward.

Thales Learning & Development are working with a number of companies to deliver innovative and forward thinking learning and development solutions. For more information about how we can develop a bespoke experiential learning programme for your organisation please call us today on 0800 077 3649.