If you build some new shelving for your kitchen and post the results on Facebook for your friends and colleagues to see, that’s experiential learning. If you make a mess and need to call a professional to save the day (like my husband did when he ripped out our bathroom sink and caused a water leak on Christmas Eve,) that’s experiential learning too. (He won’t do that again!)
The term experiential learning refers to education that takes place outside the classroom, and it’s also called hands-on learning, learning through experience or learning by doing. Whatever we call it, it’s an important technique for enriching your professional life (and your personal one.) Read on to learn more about what experiential learning can do for you and your career.
But first, let’s discuss some examples of experiential learning.
Examples of experiential learning:
- Internships, apprenticeships and management training
- Parent/Caregiver ‘returnships’
- Role play exercises
- Buddy programs
- Peer group learning experiences
- Stretch assignments
- Project management tool usage
- Video call audits, recaps and follow-ups
- Group ‘change’ projects
- Feedforward processes
- Creative problem-solving sessions
- Projects in areas employees lack experience
- Structured leadership training programs
- Job shadowing
5 advantages of experiential learning
Many schools, universities and workplaces use experiential learning to supplement textbooks and lectures to further skills. Here are 5 advantages of experiential learning:
1. Hands-on learning reinforces what’s learned in lessons
Studies show that any form of hands-on learning can be very effective to help what’s learned in lessons sink in. You’re more likely to remember new information and find ways to use it if you’ve experienced it first-hand.
2. Experiential learning expands your network
Experiential learning usually involves collaborating with others which may mean that you gain valuable contacts in your field and develop lasting relationships.
3. Learning by doing exposes you to valuable feedback
Working with others makes it easier to compare and therefore evaluate your performance. Be sure to ask for feedback and use it and don’t forget to let others know that you appreciate their input and offer your observations too if appropriate.
4. Broaden your experiences with hands-on learning
If you’re interested in projects that are outside your current job description, taking advantage of an experiential learning opportunity could be a great chance to acquire new skills and keep your qualifications up to date.
5. A great opportunity to pursue your passions
What are your 3, 5 and 10-year goals? Taking a proactive approach to your career progression gives you more control over your path instead of passively waiting for job offers.
7 strategies for experiential learning
Growth and development are possible at any stage of life, so use experiential learning to help reach your career goals and make your work more fulfilling.
Here are 7 techniques to try:
1. Build a side gig to further your skills
About one in three people have side gigs. Your side gig can be educational as well as profitable, and can provide you with some great skills and experience.
2. Shadow your colleagues in roles you admire
Are you curious about the star performers in your company or professionals in another field? Ask if you can watch what they do for a few hours, shadow them in meetings or help brainstorm on their projects.
3. Pursue an internship
If you’re at the beginning of your career, check for internship opportunities at your campus career centre, and check out these International internships London has to offer. Invest some time to clarify your goals and find an experienced mentor if possible. More experienced workers may want to explore arrangements like practicums and returnships which can help you get back into the work world after children or caring for a family member.
4. Make time to travel regularly
Adapting to new environments is stimulating, and a learning experience too. You could study or take an internship abroad for a semester or devote part of your holiday time to educational activities.
5. Volunteer your services to a worthy cause
Helping yourself and your community at the same time by donating your time and services to worthy causes will pay you back with new and impressive credentials to put on your CV.
6. Develop new hobbies that test you
Maximise your downtime by seeking out hobbies that exercise your mind and body. While you enjoy them, they may also make you more attractive to potential employers.
7. Practice deliberately
You can turn any activity into an educational experience by approaching it strategically. Focus on your backstroke if that’s the weakness in your tennis game. Experiment with small variations when you’re cooking dinner or growing roses to test the results and learn as you go.
Experiential learning can deepen your understanding and help you apply the lessons in your daily work and personal life. Deliberately seeking out opportunities such as internships and side gigs that will add to your accomplishments, build your confidence, and help you to enjoy more success is a great strategy to help you become more employable and successful.