Experiential Education

The Pfeiffer and Jones Experiential Learning Cycle

The model (see illustration) shows the following stages:

Stage 1 - Experiencing:

The experience is where data is generated. This can be an exercise in the context of a learning group or a “live” real-life experience.

Stage 2 - Publishing:

In this stage the participants in a learning group will share their personal data, their perceptions of what happened and their responses to that data. The question in this stage is “What happened?”

Stage 3 - Processing:

This is the pivotal stage in the cycle. In it the participants identify and discuss commonalities in their perceptions. Here participants look for common themes that might emerge, they might analyze trends observed in the Publishing stage, and begin some process of interpersonal feedback.

Stage 4 - Generalizing:

In this stage the question that is asked is, “So what?” It is in this stage that participants will start to look at everyday life and try to relate the experience to problems or situations in their lives. This is the really practical stage, where generalizations arising from the experience are made in preparation for the next stage.

Stage 5 - Applying:

This is the time in the cycle when plans are developed for applying the learnings identified in the previous stage to real life situations. It is at this stage that participants answer the question, “Now what?” A common, though not the only, outcome at this stage is a table of actions answering the question, “Who will do what by when?”

Some implications

One of the first implications of experiential learning is that it is primarily to do with meaning and not “subject” or “facts.” So it is highly personalized learning and the outcomes will likely include a change or changes in behaviour that are personally chosen, not imposed or demanded from outside the person.

The learning in this model will tend to be focus on “the way things are”, rather than “the way things should be.” It is a learning rooted in the individual's perceptions and feelings, not in the “received” reality.

Individuals involved in such learning tend to develop their creativity, their independence of thought and their relationship skills. These are very valuable and useful aptitudes in a world of rapid, discontinuous change. These are aptitudes which support a high coping ability.

Acknowledgments: some of the concepts expressed here are drawn from recent posts by Tony McGregor

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