Experiential Learning

Custom Search


"Learning is not a spectator sport." Teams learn best with action. Teams need to be active, Have fun and work hard.


There is an old saying to the effect that the world’s best schoolhouse would be a log with a student sitting on one end and a great teacher on the other. Maybe so – if a “schoolhouse” must be an isolated location.

In the world’s best training or educational design, however, the students would get off the damn log and go experience, firsthand, the things they were learning about. They would actually practice the skills they were trying to master. The teacher would go along as a coach and guide, allowing students to make some mistakes and confront the consequences, while preventing errors that could prove disastrous. From time to time they would return to the log and discuss – or debrief, if you will – the things the students learned from direct experience.


Whether sitting on a log or not, any teacher who is genuinely great would tell you the same thing: If you want people to learn to do something—play tennis, fly an airplane, contribute to a work team, run a multinational corporation – don’t just tell them about it, make them do it.

So powerful is the role of direct experience and practice in effective learning that if some form of it is not incorporated into workplace training designs, the organization sponsoring the training is wasting its time and money. It is absurd, bordering on criminal, to give people information about how to perform some vital aspect of their work and end by saying: “Now go forth and practice these skills on the job.”

What skills? Without practice, there is no skill; there is only information. And the first place they’re going to practice is on the job? With real customers, real co-workers, real subordinates? Where mistakes and awkwardness have real consequences for the business?

There is no substitute for experience. That is a bedrock truth. But here is another: There also are no substitutes for guidance during an experience or for reflection afterward. Remember the part where the teacher and students return to the log? That matters. In the absence of informed perspective and valid performance feedback, experience alone is a slow, cruel teacher. And it tends to cement bad habits right along with good ones.

One more truth: An approximation of genuine experience can be as useful as the real thing. Sometimes it’s even better. The best place to learn how to land an airplane at 50 different airports under 50 different wind and weather conditions while suffering 50 different mechanical problems is not in a real airplane. It’s in a flight simulator.

Likewise, games, simulations, and feedback instruments can be wonderfully useful for learning skills pertaining to leadership, teamwork, coaching, conflict resolution, interpersonal communication, and more.


Learning by Design;

Unfortunately, “experiential learning” has become a buzz phrase in the corporate-training community. As tends to occur whenever a good idea turns into a fashionable one, a great deal of nonsense has sprung up around it. You don’t have to look very hard to find “experiential learning” programs that substitute mere activity for relevant experience and practice. Music might play, whistles might blow, people might move about, and some might enjoy themselves. But the activity has little, if anything, to do with generating real insight into the subject at hand or practicing useful skills. “What did we learn from that experience?” An honest answer would be, “Beats me.”

By research and, yes, by experience, we at HRDQ are convinced beyond doubt that experiential learning is the most effective model for training and education. But by that we mean, when it is done right. Doing it right requires several things.

In the first place, any effective learning model must be, in fact, a model, not just a buzzword. In HRDQ’s Experiential Learning Model (see below) experience and practice are two of seven phases leading to the ultimate goal, which is to integrate new skills into work performance. If you aren’t trying to change something about the way people do their jobs, why are you training them?

The experience and practice must be relevant, valid, and meaningful. Whatever form the experience takes – game, simulation, or something else – it has to teach the intended lesson. HRDQ’s learning activities are time-tested and proven to do what they say they’ll do. The teaching process must recognize and incorporate sound educational principles. Certainly, we know that direct experience has an enormous impact on learning. But that isn’t all we know. Educational research and practice demonstrate, for instance, that individuals have different learning styles, and that these styles come into play in significant ways. A great deal also is known about how adult learners differ from children. All of that knowledge should be put to use in an experiential design, just as in any other teaching approach.


What are the benefits?
• Learner-focused approach encourages active participation • Hands-on involvement makes learning more meaningful • Honest self-reflection inspires insight and specific action • Feedback from others completes an accurate portrait of behavior • Skill practice improves confidence and the ability to transfer learning • Action planning enables individuals to employ new skills immediately ,br>

What is it?
• Learning centers around the individual and his/her active involvement • Lessons that are relevant to the individual and his/her current situation • Participants develop a sense of responsibility for their own learning • Learning environment is adaptable to the individual’s needs

What are some examples?
• Constructing a model with teammates • Taking an assessment • Recognizing behaviors and preferences • Role-playing • Exchanging feedback • Considering past experience in the workplace • Discussing insights with colleagues • Creating an action plan for improvement

The two papers that follow explain HRDQ’s philosophy of experiential learning in more detail. They cite the research that supports it. And they offer much food for thought about how to create learning experiences that lead to real growth and change, for individuals, teams, and organizations.
Find tools for your training at HRDQ: Click here to visit HRDQ





Unforgettable Experiential Activities for Training

Unforgettable Experiential Activities for Training

From training expert Mel Silberman, Unforgettable Experiential Activities is a next-step resource based on his well-known Active Training program. As accessible as it is useful, each one of the book's 75 original activities includes helpful training tips and techniques. The collection will help all trainers – both novice and experienced – engage their learners in active, experiential learning.

The activities are organized by today's most sought after training topics including:

• Change Management • Communication • Conflict • Creativity • Facilitation • Influencing • Leadership • Negotiating • Team Building

Table of Contents:

Preface Acknowledgements Introduction

Chapter One: Getting Acquainted
1. Alphabetical Circle: A Fun Way to Learn Names and a Lot More 2. Group Résumé: Who We Are Collectively 3. Things We Have in Common: Getting to Know You 4. Predictions: Making Guesses About Co-Participants 5. Introductory Go-Arounds: Brief Self-Disclosures 6. What’s in a Name? My Story

Chapter Two: Communication
7. Communication Tokens: An Awareness Exercise 8. Direct Communication: You Write the Scripts 9. Explaining Something Complicated: Avoiding Information Dumps 10. Obtaining Participation: Using Different Formats

Chapter Three: Assertive Behavior
11. Concerns About Confronting Employees: Overcoming the Anxiety 12. Assertive Starters: Ways to Begin an Assertive Message 13. Non-Verbal Persuasion: Assessing Its Impact 14. Refusing Unwanted Requests: Practicing Saying No 15. Stating Complaints and Requesting Change: Skill Practice

Chapter Four: Influencing Others
16. Alligator River: Looking at People with Different Glasses 17. Question First: The Best Way to Overcome Resistance 18. Influencing Others: Four Role-Play Scenarios 19. Getting Your Foot in the Door: Avoiding Rejection

Chapter Five: Conflict and Negotiation
20. Views of Conflict: A Word Association Game 21. What You Bring to Conflict Situations: Experiencing Different Styles 22. The Ten-Thousand-Dollar Challenge: Working Through a Conflict 23. Role Reversal: Arguing the Flip Side 24. Rating Methods to Deal with Conflict: Yours and Theirs 25. Breaking a Stalemate: Steps to Move Forward

Chapter Six: Creativity and Problem Solving
26. Getting Ready for Brainstorming: Creative Warm-Ups 27. Part Changing: Demonstrating a Technique to Increase Creativity 28. Brainwriting: An Alternative to Generating Ideas Verbally 29. Inspired Cut-Outs: Freeing the Mind 30. Wearing Someone Else's Shoes: Taking a Different Perspective 31. Making Decisions After Brainstorming: Narrowing the Options

Chapter Seven: Diversity
32. Being in the Minority: Simulating an Everyday Reality 33. I've Been Curious: Questions I Have Been Afraid to Ask 34. Setting the Record Straight: Things About Me and Others Like Me 35. Unlocking Memories: Self-Disclosures in a Diverse Group

Chapter Eight: Facilitating Teams
36. Multi-Voting: A Constructive Way to Make Decisions 37. Rotating Facilitators: Practicing Effective Facilitation 38. Card Exchange: A Unique Way to Stimulate Discussion 39. The Problem with Majority Voting: A Double Whammy 40. Changing the Rules: Altering Group Process 41. Removing Egos: A Tool for Team Facilitators

Chapter Nine: Exchanging Feedback
42. Animal Metaphors: An Exercise in Obtaining Honest Feedback 43. Giving Effective Feedback: Wheaties Over Donuts 44. Judging the Impact of Words: Applications to Giving Feedback 45. When Asking for or Giving Feedback Is Challenging: Your Advice

Chapter Ten: Leadership
46. The Window Shade of Decision Making 47. Mirroring: Experiencing the Joys and Tribulations of Being a Leader 48. Going Outside Comfort Zones: Brief Exercises in Change 49. Changes You Would to Make: Dreaming Beyond the Status Quo

Chapter Eleven: Teaching and Coaching Employees
50. Making Butterflies: It's Not What You Say That Counts 51. Brain-Friendly Teaching: Using Four Key Principles 52. Building Skills Through Role Plays: You Have Options 53. The Components of Effective Coaching: Observing the Process 54. Show But Not Tell: Upping the Stakes

Chapter Twelve: Understanding Others
55. Avoiding Labels: Interpreting Behavior Objectively 56. Be Curious, Not Furious: Five Ways to Understand Others 57. Comparing Yourself to Others: Looking for Differences and Similarities 58. The Three C's What Makes People Difficult

Chapter Thirteen: Sales and Customer Service
59. A Convincing Sales Presentation: Warm-Up Practice 60. Dissatisfied Customers: How to Win Them Over 61. To Consult or Not Consult: Assessing Your Selling Style 62. Your Company's Sales Philosophy: How Do You Treat Customers?

Chapter Fourteen: Building
63. The Stages of Team Development: A Card Sorting Activity 64. Television Commercial: An Unusual Team-Building Activity 65. Creative House Building: An Exercise in Teamwork 66. Fishbowl Meeting: Observing Group Process 67. Making Paper Cups: Simulating a Learning Organization 68. Are You a Team Player? Things Team Players Do 69. Paper Airplanes: The Power of Collaboration

Chapter Fifteen: Train the Trainer
70. Active Vacations: Topics versus Objectives 71. Design Challenges: Planning How to Achieve Training Objectives 72. Energizers: Ways to Wake Up or Relax a Training Group 73. Has This Ever Happened to You? Making Team Learning Work 74. Training Styles: Three Continua 75. You Have Many Options: Increasing Your Training Repertoire

Find this great book at HRDQ:
Click here to visit HRDQ


webcast HRDQ

The Power of Experiential Learning in Leadership Training
Duration: 40 minutes

Presenters: Dr. Rollin Glaser, HRDQ Co-Founder and Gary Turner, HRDQ Senior Consultant

Experiential Learning is more than just a buzz word. It’s a tried-and-true method that overcomes one of training’s most difficult obstacles – achieving learning outcomes that generate results. It’s also the key to designing and delivering effective training for the most in-demand business training topic – leadership. But do you know how and why it works – and how to put it into action?
Discover this and more from the experts. Join HRDQ co-founder Dr. Rollin Glaser and HRDQ Senior Consultant Gary Turner as they reveal the powerful connections between experiential learning and effective leadership training.
You will learn:

• What experiential learning is all about
• Why it makes learning stick
• How experiential learning impacts leadership training
• What results organizations have achieved with an experiential leadership program
Put experiential learning to work for you and get results from your leadership training!


The power of experiential learning“Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Let me do and I understand.” ~ Confucius If you want people to internalize a new skill, you can’t just tell them how—even in a world filled with high-tech gadgets and information at the fingertips. They must do it. And that’s why HRDQ believes in the power of experiential learning.

Take interpersonal skills training, for instance. You can listen to someone tell you how to be a better leader, an effective communicator, or a valuable team member. But no matter how much information you absorb about those skills, your first attempts to perform them are likely to be clumsy. Why? Because no practice means no skill.

Experiential training raises the odds that training will “transfer” to the job, where it counts. Meaning, people are better able to apply what they have learned in a way that improves their job performance. Practice in the safety of the learning environment gives people the self-confidence to use and refine their skills in the real world. They’ve been there. They’ve done it. And they know they can do it again.Go to HRDQ, to learn more:



Return to home page