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Experiential Learning & Teaching in Higher Education

Abstract

Educators can recognize learner preferences to meet learners where they are comfortable, then guide them around the entire learning cycle. This paper describes four learner preferences corresponding to stages of the learning cycle, ways of addressing each preference and tips for leveraging the design with technology. By scaffolding for full cycle experiential learning, educators encourage learners to become more flexible in their process and more successful in the context of the program.

First Page

Learners have preferences for learning that may be implicit. Learners find a comfortable approach to learning that places emphasis on certain parts of the learning process and underutilizes or avoids others (Peterson and Kolb, 2017). Educators can recognize learner preferences and meet learners where they are most comfortable. In addition, educators empower learners to be most successful when they guide learners around the full learning cycle process, acknowledging tension and resistance. Educators can design four approaches to address four learning stages and leverage each stage with technology. By this scaffolding, they encourage learner flexibility and empower learners to adopt this full cycle learning process. Experiential Learning David Kolb (2015) synthesized the work of nine foundational scholars from education, psychology and philosophy to develop an ideal process of learning and developing from experience (the learning cycle) and described preferences for using it. Experiential Learning is based on several unique perspectives on learning and development beginning with the awareness that learning is present in every life experience and is an invitation to be engaged in each experience. As opposed to a linear information transfer that measures outcomes, experiential learning is viewed as a recursive cyclical process that involves all aspects of a whole person (affective, perceptual, cognitive, and behavioral) and can be applied to any life situation. This ideal process of learning includes four steps or modes: experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting. In practice, the cycle is more dynamic and less prescribed, yet deep learning requires the use of all four modes regardless of the order. By doing this, people are able to experience an effective,

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mental model of a teamwork process, communicating with others, giving and receiving feedback, managing time and resources, and being accountable to get things done. In the current virtual context, it also involves working remotely and managing collaboration tools. These many complex competencies that must come together for a learner to be successful with a complex, holistic one-time experience. With technology, educators can scaffold learning experiences over time in a stepwise, graduated manner to build one competency at a time, allowing students to uncouple various skills to make the practice more focused. To accomplish this design and execution, educators will benefit from recognizing their own preferences for learning and educating. In doing so, they become aware of the results from using their preferred approach and finding ways to supplement it through design, technology, and learning from experience.

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