Experiential Learning Theory

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Hoover and Whitehead (1975) in Gentry (1990:10) defines experiential learning as the total involvement of the participant in a learning situation. Although the definition captures the totality of the participant (cognitive, affective and behavioural) it is less specific on the nature of the field of experience. Is a totally engaged learner in a lecture classroom considered to be learning through experience? Lewis and Williams (1994:5) provide a much simplified definition of which we shall adopt (with a few modifications) for the purposes of this research:
In its simplest form, experiential learning means learning from experience or learning by doing. Experiential learning first immerses learners in an experience and then encourages reflection
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Fenwick (2003) in Merriam et al. (2007:160) suggests five main theoretical perspectives or lenses derived from specific learning theory. From the constructivist theory of learning is derived reflection on concrete experience of which Kolb and Jarvis are the main exponents. The situative theory of learning holds that knowledge, thinking and learning are situated in the context from which the experience is embedded. The theory therefore emphasizes on community of practice. The psychoanalytic theory of learning focuses on attending to psychic conflicts in order to maximise our learning experience. The critical cultural theories seek to change the status –quo in order to transform the oppressive social norms. The complexity theory highlights the organic, non-linear and interactive and interconnected nature of learning. The focus is on relationships rather than the experience itself. In terms of the scope of this research we shall confine ourselves to the constructivist paradigm and touch on the situative…show more content…
Facilitators can help provide a supportive environment to assist in the process. The facilitator has a role to play in pre and post experience. Learners need to be prepared if they have to make most of their experience. According to Boud and Walker (1999:29) a facilitator can assist learners by introducing them to the context, and help them develop skills and strategies prior to the event. Merriam et al (2007:169) describes the various roles of the facilitator during reflection on action to include (i) encouraging learners to reflect and discuss openly ion the experience, (ii) bringing to light underlying assumptions for reflection, (iii) assessor of learner’s prior experiential learning. Taylor et al. (1997: viii) view the role of the facilitator as that of creating and maintaining a ‘supportive, understanding and relaxed environment’. They point out the following actions that facilitators need to undertake: (i) listen attentively, (ii) encourage learners to solve problems by themselves (iii) provide direction subtly without forcing one’s way through. Boud and Walker (1999: 33-36) are more specific as to the role of the facilitator during reflection after experience. (i) assisting learners return to the experience in an objective manner (ii) bring to the awareness of the learners the

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