Experiential learning (ExL)

Experiential learning is the way of learning where the learner reflects over his past experience and constructs his concept based on his applications in real life situation and thus, constructs a new knowledge.

Knowledge is a process not an outcome and the reflection on previous knowledge is the foundation of a new knowledge. It is not always necessary that the learning process begin with experience instead the learning may start at any point of cycle of experiential learning. It might start through reflection while observing other doing work. Or it may occur by reading any article and analyzing over the solution of the specific problem.

ExL includes the integration of knowledge, activities and reflection in order to create new knowledge.

Conditions of Experiential Learning

There are the basic conditions of ExL: –

  1. Experiences are the foundation of learning. Experience can be gained undergoing any unpredictable situation.
  2. Throughout the experience process, the learner remains actively involved, curious and creative.
  3. The reflection during the learning and after the learning are the integral component of a learning process. This reflection leads to learning creative thinking.
  4. Learner involves actively in the learning process which produce a perception that the task is authentic.

Experiential Learning is a collaborative activity. It develops relationship with the self, with the team members and with the whole world.

Elements of Experiential Learning

Experiential Learning presents a cycle of four elements: –

  • Concrete experience,
  • Reflective observation,
  • Abstract conceptualization and
  • Active experimentation

The concrete experience and abstract conceptualization are the way to gain experience while reflective observation and active experimentation are the way of transforming experiences.


Concrete experience describes the practical experiences from which we learn. When we try to do new things, face problems and challenges and decide to step out of comfort zones.  We can get these experiences in our professional or professional life. Through experience, we may success or failed but we gain practical or concrete experience.


Then we have to think to learn from our past experiences. The “reflective observation” stage of the experiential learning cycle is all about reflecting on experiences that involve both emotion and action. It is at this stage that we reflect on experiences. We should think about what went right and what can be improved? Here the person has a chance also to think and rethink how it could have been done better or differently.


Once we identify and understand the defining characteristics of an experience, we can decide what we should do differently to get better result next time. This is a time to plan and consider steps for success.


The active experimentation phase is the phase of the learning cycle is where we experiment with our thoughts and ideas. It’s time to try out our action plan in the real situations.

A person uses these elements in the experiential learning process. A person may start from any point/ phase of cycle but he has to go through all steps/ elements of experiential learning.

Examples of Experiential Learning

Below are two examples of ExL for better understanding:

Learn Paneer Tikka recipe:

Reflective observation – Thinking about the recipe or watching another person/ You Tube video that prepares the recipe.

Abstract conceptualization – understanding of the entire process and ingredients used in the Paneer Tikka recipe and a clear understanding of the recipe’s cooking method.

Concrete experience – receiving practical and expert tips.

Active experimentation – Preparing the recipe in real.

Learn to teach a subject:

Concrete experience – getting a trainer to train someone else.

Reflective observation – Observing how other people learn or how can you do better in comparison of your last attempt.

Abstract conceptualization – reading articles to find out the advantages and disadvantages of different methods and planning out your own style.

Active experimentation – using your own skills with what you learned through your past experiences to achieve a new training style.

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