Experiential Learning
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Experiential learning is an approach that directly involves learners in the practical experiences related to their education. Throughout these experiences, learners reflect on their involvement and explore their evolving conceptualisation of knowledge. The impact of learning through experience has long been documented. Educational theorists such as Dewey (1938) and Piaget (1966) have explored the benefits, leading to the formalisation of experiential learning as an educational approach.

Experiential Learning Cycle

Expanding on the works of Dewey and Piaget, Kolb (1984) designed a cycle that models the process of experiential learning. This model is formed of two levels, broken down into four stages, as illustrated below. It defines the process of approaching new experiences and abstract conceptualisations, and shows how it is constructed in the learner's mind through reflective observation and active experimentation.



Doing/having an experience


Reviewing/reflecting on the experience


Concluding/learning from the experience


Planning/trying out what you have learned

Concrete Evidence

Learning is an active experience. Whether done as an individual or group, it should engage learners in practical application of skills and knowledge.

Reflective Observation

Learners should be given an opportunity to reflect on their experience. This includes undertaking a self-reflective activity or engaging with peers to articulate, discuss and explore their experiences.

Abstract Conceptualisation

At this stage, learners should build upon the evidence and reflections. The two previous stages become linked in order for them to compare their existing knowledge and new experiences. This is how they construct new understanding.

Active Experimentation

Having explored their learning, learners should now translate their understanding into future application. Learners draw conclusions from their previous experiences to provide appropriate context and provide a refined plan for how they will undertake work in the future.


Bandura, A. (1991). Human Agency: The rhetoric and the reality. American Psychologist , 157-162.

Chapman, S., McPhee, P., & Proudman, P. (1995). What is experiential education? The theory of experiential education, 235-248.

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education. New York, NY: Kappa Delta Pi.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Paniagua, A., & Istance, D. (2018). Teachers as Designers of Learning Environments: The Importance of Innovative Pedagogies, Educational Research and Innovation. Paris: OECD Publishing.

Patricia, R., & McCarthy, H. (2006). When Case Studies Are Not Enough: Integrating Experiential Learning Into Business Curricula. Journal of Education for Business, 201-204.

Piaget, J. (1966). The Psychology of Intelligence. Totowa, NJ: Littlefield, Adams and Co.