The biggest question regarding personal and professional development remains; how do humans effectively learn new skills? The answer is simple: we learn from experience. Experienced-based learning is far more impactful than conceptual or textbook-based learning because it establishes a more long-term behavioral change. Experiences allow us to develop and cultivate new habits and practices, and this learning ends up cementing firmly as we reflect on these experiences.
Dr. David A. Kolb is a renowned psychologist and thought of as the forefather of experiential learning. He is famous for saying: “knowledge results from the combination of grasping experience and transforming it”. Kolb and his fellow propagators of experiential learning understand that mastery of any skill or theory is achieved through experience, repetitive behavior, and moments of reflection. The Experiential Learning Cycle consists of experiencing, reflecting, conceptualizing, and reflecting, and there are several aspects of these elements that will contribute to experiential learning:
1. Concrete Experience
This refers to the actual hands-on experiences in which we explore new things and move outside of our comfort zone. These types of experiences can occur in our personal or professional lives, and are the best way to learn about our successes and failures.
In order for our experiences to be parlayed into real learning and behavioral changes, it is important to reflect. Reflection, or reflective observation, consists of considering our experiences and asking what went right or wrong and what can be improved. Moments of reflection are also an excellent opportunity to learn from others and consider various in-roads to the main goal. It’s essentially a stage of analysis for considering outcomes and thinking about the pros and cons of continuing down whatever path you’re exploring.
After reflecting on the experience, the next step is to determine how to put this learning into action. Conceptualization is the phase in which a pragmatic approach begins to take shape, and a plan begins to take shape.
Now is the time to put your learning to the test and experiment with new things! If you dove into a new practice area or familiarized yourself on a new piece of legislation, try writing a practice group description or a white paper on the topic, and see who you feel. Are you confident in your knowledge and abilities? Do y0ou need to deepen your learning? There is only one way to find out…
Where does online learning fit in?
There is a common misconception that online learning programs is reminiscent of classic textbook learning and conceptual information sharing, and doesn’t provide the hands-on training experiential learning offers. This isn’t in fact the case with most online portals, as educators have an understanding of how to teach and convey learning materials as effectively as possible, which has been proven to be through experiential learning.
Selecting the right learning platform
- There are a few key factors that ensure online learning mirrors the opportunities and benefits offered by experiential learning methods. Here are a few tips for picking the right platform:
- Seek out the platforms that offer practical elements to their teaching – games, quizzes, simulated scenarios, and anything that goes beyond the traditional talking head videos and long-form documents
- Select learning platforms that have interactive elements such as social media integration and other ways to socialize and interact. It is important to engage with others on a similar learning path as you for support and different perspectives.
Learning by doing is the most powerful way to pick up a new skill or grasp a new concept. Choose your learning methods wisely and do your best to seek out opportunities to get your hands dirty.