What is it?
Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience. It focuses on the learning process of the individual. It is far more effective in the acquisition of knowledge than traditional learning, where the learner plays a comparatively passive role.
A surgeon doesn’t learn how to cut just by reading a book. (In Japan the Kurashiki Central Hospital holds Surgeon Tryouts by having candidates create sushi with 1 grain of rice, reassemble an insect and create tiny origami figures. You can check it out here.
A tennis player doesn’t learn the sport by reading a book, they learn it by picking up a racquet and hitting some balls. You acquire the skill of riding a bike by riding it. Not just by reading about it, or watching someone else do it.
Why use it
Experience-based learning is so effective because it helps establish lasting behaviour change. How? Rather than simply understanding a new subject or gaining a skill, we develop new habits and behaviours.
It engages us visually. audibly, and kinaesthetically. Making it the most effective way (and we believe the only way) to truly develop a skill.
Our brains get wired from life experience, and our aim is build new pathways. We can only do this by experiencing events. Improvisation gives us these experiencing events.
Now there is a time and place for theory, but delegates will get much more out of a training session when there is experiential exercises as opposed to just thinking and talking about it all.
If your objective is to acquire a new skill or increase your ability in an old one, you must practice it in context (experience it). Learning about a skill enhances practice, but it doesn’t replace it. If performance matters, learning alone is never enough.