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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Experiential Learning: a Handbook for Education, Training and Coaching
Article Type: Suggested readings From: Human Resource Management International Digest, Volume 22, Issue 2
Colin Beard and John P. Wilson
Colin Beard and John P Wilsons Experiential Learning: a Handbook for Education, Training and Coaching offers educators, trainers and coaches the skills that can be successfully applied to settings including management education, corporate training, team-building, youth-development work, counseling and therapy, schools and higher education and special-needs training.
The authors argue that we learn from our mistakes. Peter Honey and Michael Pearn, at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Developments human-resource development conference in London, looked at the nature of mistakes and stated that there were three types of people: those who make a mistake once and learn from it so as not to make the mistake again; those who make a mistake once and are so traumatized that they do not venture into that territory again; and those who continue to make the same mistake over and over, never learning from the previous episodes in their experience. Only the first of the three types can be said to have truly learned.
This scenario about learning was repeated by Akio Morita, former Sony chief executive, who stated to his workers: "Its OK to make a mistake, but dont make the same mistake twice."
The book explains that active engagement is a basic tenet of experiential learning. It involves the whole person through thoughts, feelings and physical activity.
Some people learn better in the morning, others at night. If we are aware of our preferences we tend to use the insight to plan how to organize our learning.
Learning is a relatively permanent change of knowledge, attitude or behavior occurring as a result of formal education, training or development, or as a result of informal experiences. Experiential learning, the authors explain, is learning that begins with experience and transforms it into knowledge, skills, attitude, emotions, values, belief and senses.
We could become overwhelmed with the avalanche of information. Our brain, like a computer, might shut down as a result of overloading. Take a minute to look out of the window and see the various objects and interactions happening between people, to get an idea of how that might happen.
The challenge for educators, trainers and developers, say the authors, is to find the right type of experience that is immediately appealing to the learner and also has a longer-term impact.
According to Honey and Mumford, people learn in two ways. The first is through teaching, and the second is through experience. They explained that there are four types of people defined according to their learning styles:
1. Activists who prefer to involve themselves in an experience and do so in an open-minded manner. They involve themselves with the activity first and then weigh up the implications of their actions afterwards.
2. Reflectors who prefer to gather information and carefully consider it before reaching a conclusion. They are thoughtful and cautious and tend to reserve judgment in meetings until they are reasonably sure about their conclusions.
3. Theorists who tend to be systems people who gather information and attempt to develop a coherent theory about the experience. They are logical and prefer to analyze information and produce an encompassing theory.
4. Pragmatists who prefer to apply theories and techniques to investigate whether they work. Pragmatists are realistic people who seek out improved methods of operating.
Good practice and competence come with good judgment born out of experience, and to an extent depend on the maturity of the profession.
Sensory awareness is an underestimated phenomenon: sensory data coming in influences our thinking, feeling and judging. Therefore it might be said that sensory intelligence (SI) is potentially more significant than emotional intelligence (EQ).
Experiential learning is as much about observing and reflecting as it is about doing. Calmly speaking the inner feelings is a vital step. Anger as an expression of emotion is all right, but the direction in which anger is sent is more significant: how it is sent and to whom it is sent are key concerns.
Metaphors present a powerful tool to access and explore feelings. A single word can possess multiple meanings; yet as the common saying goes, one picture can be worth 1,000 words. And if one picture can be worth 1,000 words, one experience can be worth 1,000 pictures. And if an experience can be worth 1,000 pictures, then one metaphor can be worth 1,000 experiences.
Learning is more effective when it is an active rather than a passive process. And problem-centered learning is more enduring than theory-based learning. Learning is most effective when thought and action are integrated.
In many ways our brain is like an iceberg: the conscious brain is like the tip of the iceberg above the water; the unconscious brain, which conducts most of the processing and which we are rarely aware of, is like the greater part of the iceberg, which is under water.
This is a widely researched book covering from outdoor team-building to office-based activities. It provides valuable take-aways for trainers, educators, facilitators, mentors, coaches and leaders who are keen to explore, acquire and apply experiential learning.
Reviewed by Professor M.S. Rao, author and leadership guru. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org