Experiential Learning and the Teacher’s Role

Experiential learning, as the name implies, is the process of learning by experience.  Experiential learning is a teaching and learning approach that promotes direct experience and reflection as a method of gaining and expanding information, skills, and attitudes. It is an instructional approach that promotes active participation, critical thinking, problem solving, and the application of learning in real-world circumstances.

David A. Kolb’s book „Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development” was published in 1984, and it presented his perspective of the learning cycle. Kolb proposed an approach that may be put in place to facilitate learning, starting with the fundamental concept that people learn via experience.

The learning cycle, according to David A. Kolb, has four phases. These are: concrete experience, abstract conceptualization, reflective observation and active experimentation.
Do: Concrete learning – get new perspectives
Reflective observation – research and focus on the experience
Learn: Abstract conceptualisation – create innovative ideas or update current ones based on reflections
Apply: Active experimentation involves implementing new ideas to a particular scenario.

Concrete experience generates knowledge that can be used as a foundation for introspection. The knowledge acquired from a specific experience through reflection will determine a person to create new hypotheses about the world. Kolb also discovered that those who are „watchers” prefer contemplative observation, whereas people who are „doers” prefer active exploration. When the student proceeds through the cycle, effective learning may be noticed. The learner can also enter the cycle at any point along the logical sequence.

This procedure may also be used for organising learning experiences in general. For example, in university, the learn stage would reflect a standard course lecture where existing theories support the conceptualisation of a set of broad concepts. Additional phases might include solitary study, tutorials, small group seminars, or laboratories.

Kolb believes that in order to achieve successful learning, all four phases must be present. A learning experience might begin at any of the four stages, but it should proceed in a logical order. Active experimentation produces solid learning, allowing the next cycle and the entire process to be repeated.

Creating a safe and inviting environment will make using the experiential learning technique much easier. Open communication and cooperation will come naturally after the teacher creates a safe and welcoming environment in the classroom where students feel comfortable expressing their experiences, opinions, and comments.

Rather than being the sole provider of information, the teacher takes on the role of a facilitator, guiding and supporting students as they explore their experiences. They establish an atmosphere in which students may interact with the content on their own, explore, and uncover insights.

Teachers contextualise the experience activities within the context of the subject. They explain how the experience relates to concepts, theory and real-world applications, encouraging students in seeing the broader picture.

Teachers should create learning experiences that challenge and inspire students to venture outside of their comfort zones. Hands-on projects, outdoor activities, field excursions, role-playing, and other activities that directly immerse students in the subject matter are meaningful experience that favour experiential learning.

Reflection is an important part of experience learning. This is why teachers should encourage students through the process of reflecting on their experiences, assisting them in understanding insights, identifying problems and looking for solutions. It is very important for teachers to encourage students to critically analyse and assess their experiences. Thought-provoking questions and dialogues can help students to critically think about the significance of their experiences in depth.

A teacher should also make decisions about how to best assist their pupils learn based on the circumstances in which they educate. Teachers often do so with skill, thoughtfulness, and necessary care, in accordance with their own ideals as well as the values of their students.

Teachers should be aware that their decisions may not result in the desired outcomes, which is why it is critical for teachers to monitor the effects of their actions over time, analyse the findings, and adapt flexibly as needed. This provides teachers with an opportunity to reflect on their practise with the goal to learn, develop, and improve. In this way, their experience provides and strengthens their intuition for decision-making.

Experiential learning as a teaching method allows students to take responsibility of their learning and build skills that will help them grow personally and professionally. Teachers emphasise the importance of continuing learning, flexibility, and curiosity through participating in experiential learning alongside their students.

In a nutshell, the teacher’s role in experiential learning is to lead, facilitate, and encourage students’ active engagement with the subject matter through well-designed experiences, while also promoting reflection, critical thinking, and knowledge application in real-world scenarios.


Barone, T., Berliner, D.C., Blanchard, J., Casanova, U., T. Mcgowan. T., The Future of Teacher Education: Developing a Strong Sense of Professionalism, In Handbook of Research on Teacher Education, 2nd ed. SIKULA, T. J. BUTTERY and E. GUYTON (dir). New York: Macmillan, 1996

Kolb, D.A., Experiential learning, experiences as the source of learning and development, Second Edition, Pearson Education, Inc., 2015

Richards, Jack, Communicative Language Teaching Today, Longman, London, 2005

Scrivener, Jim, Learning Teaching, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005


prof. Carmen-Lidia Nistor

Școala Gimnazială Mihai Eminescu, Brăila (Brăila) , România
Profil iTeach: iteach.ro/profesor/carmen.nistor

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