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What is Experiential Learning?

Experiential Learning brings the real world and learning concepts together.  In a lot of ways, it’s learning by doing but with defined goals.  The learner is placed in a situation that has some real life context and is given the opportunity to walk through it for themselves.  Through that experience, they can reflect and develop ideas that are applicable for them.  Experiential learning is important in the professional development world because it creates unique learning experiences for the individual that sparks conversation.

It’s become clear over the past several decades that traditional learning methods don’t have a lasting impact.  Without hands-on application, concepts don’t connect or are forgotten altogether.  That’s why educators and leaders are turning to experiential learning models.  Experiential learning takes you out of the office/case study environment and gives you a hands on learning experience that drives home concepts.  Think of it like a flight simulator for pilots.  You’re using as close to real-life examples to learn business concepts like team building, and innovation.

See what participants of our experiential leadership programs think.

More Experiential Learning

Kolb Experiential Learning Model

The Kolb Experiential Learning Model

Leading through massive change and chaos: Lessons from the Battle of Gettysburg

Experiential Learning From a Historical Battle

experiential learning daily activities

Experiential Learning Training at Work

experiential learning

Business Case for Experiential Learning

The Kolb Learning Model

Experiential Learning Model from Experience to Lead

One of the most popular models is the Experiential Learning Model from the educational theorist David A. Kolb.  His theory rests on two pillars: the learning cycle and the learner’s style.  Different learning styles each thrive in different stages of the cycle, for this reason among others, it is important to complete the full cycle of learning to have the most impact.

By committing to this model you journey from Experience to Reflection & Discussion to Conceptualization numerous times.  Following an experience with a time of reflection, open dialogue and conceptualization, every participant has the opportunity, formally or informally, to commit to a task or change they are going to pursue.  The application of that commitment begins as you return to your work environment.

Besides his work on experiential learning, David A. Kolb is also known for his contribution to thinking around organizational behavior. He has an interest in career development and executive and professional education. He is also the founder and Chairman of Experience Based Learning Systems Inc. that provides ongoing quality research. (

Experiential Learning Model from Experience to Lead

The Business Case for Experiential Learning

Many high-performing firms have turned to experiential learning to improve employee training.  The research shows that it is more effective and has a higher rate of concept retention.  The result is a more effective team and lower rates of turnover.

High-Performing Firms Use Experiential Learning Three Times More than Lower Performing Firms*
Retention Rate of Concepts vs. Five Percent with Traditional Methods**
Job Knowledge is Acquired Through On-The-Job Experience***


Return on Investment

“This experience is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”

VP | Edwards Lifesciences Corp.

“It helped bridge the dichotomy of the business world and the battlefield bringing relevance to the decisions I frequently face.”

Manager | Pepco Holdings

“Our experience has been vital to the success of our senior managers.”

Manager | International Paper

Implementing Experiential Learning in Your Business

Do you want to implement experiential learning into your company training?  It may be easier than you think.  One way to fast track your progress is by partnering with an experiential leadership consultant.  When selecting a partner to help develop your team’s experiential learning programs, it’s important that they tailor everything to fit your business’ specific needs.  If you’re interested in learning more or implementing your own experiential learning models for your business, you’ll find some helpful resources below.

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