Have you ever tried teaching a child a new skill? Take learning to swim as an example. You could give a detailed description of the process and then expect them to remember and follow your instructions, or you could let them get on with it, learn in their own way. Learning in their own way will certainly result in some frustrations, but through this experience of trial and error they are more likely to remember for themselves the best way to get to the result.
We think that experiencing real situations and learning from what you experience is key to all learning. And so, clearly, do a lot of big thinkers before us. Benjamin Franklin said “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. Long before him, Aristotle said “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them”.
What is experiential training?
Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience – and more specifically the process of “learning through reflecting on what you’re doing / just did”. It’s been around for a very long time.
Why is experiential training so powerful in management and soft skills solutions?
The gentlemen I mentioned above were onto something. These observations still ring true today, especially when we want people to learn behaviors to apply in the workplace. Learning by doing is great for children, but as adults in the workplace we can really add the additional aspect of reflecting on how our behaviors affect outcomes. This is the experiential advantage.
How can experiential training help you retain information and embed behaviors?
Dr. Igor Kokcharov’s did some research into this and came up with this pretty useful pyramid. If you take a look at it, you can see how learning by doing with coach led reflection and practice gives participants the best chance to retain necessary information.
Who’s using the experiential training approach?
A lot of adult learning approaches in a broad range of fields from corporate to military, and from emergency services to care work, make use of this experiential advantage. Business schools use the approach with simulation exercises, and critical incident gaming can be found in government agencies and board rooms alike. At Target Training, our experience is that experiential training can do much more. It can increase awareness of behaviors, particularly those with negative consequences. It else has the power to challenge current approaches in a developmental, non-judgmental way. If experiential training is established, we can focus on the individual’s needs and deliver tangible change. This fits perfectly when developing soft and management skills.
What does experiential training look like in the training environment?
Put very, very simply, experiential training = do + debrief + do it again. You might be thinking that sounds pretty boring – why go to training to do the same thing a couple of times over? Think about the result you’re looking for though. You’re going to training not to learn a bunch of theory, but to be able to go back to your workplace and do something differently. Experiential training is all about working in the real world. Whether in a well-designed activity or on-the job, you behave the way you do. After observing you in action, the trainer/coach leads you through a consequence-based conversation, talking you through the behaviors he or she observed. They also link what they have seen with alternatives to help improve the outcome. You develop new skills and can then apply them to a new experience. You learn to recognize “triggering events” in your work environment and can choose to use the new behavior in training – and beyond.
How does it work?
Here are some of the elements which are key to successful experiential training:
By creating a positive, encouraging environment in the training room. This help you to act as you normally do and feel comfortable with trying out new skills. The more you can share the behavior-consequence based feedback the trainer gives you, the easier it will be to identify and close any behavior gaps.
The debriefing stage is key. New information necessary to support new behaviors is introduced here.
Varied interaction and activities
Challenging, timed group and pair work problem solving activities to raise the stress level so participants communicate as themselves.
What can I expect from my trainer?
The trainer’s role is not to present you with lots of information. They act more as a coach and are responsible for creating a developmental, experiment-friendly environment in the training room.
What do I need to do to make experiential training a success?
Be open. To be effective, experiential soft skills training requires you to fully participate in experiences, as well as being willing to reflect and identify behavior gaps with others. None of us would feel comfortable about learning to swim through guided discussion or a PowerPoint presentation. Experiential soft skills training puts you in the deep water of communication situations. This allows you to see a need for new behaviors that will lead to better consequences on the job. You practice these behaviors through experiences in a safe, leaner-centered environment. And will then feel ready to dive back into your working environment to try out these new behaviors.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
We work with the 70-20-10 model. My colleagues and I are available to tell you more about how we can implement the right training for your needs. To help you find a training provider, please download our eBook THE DEFINITIVE CHECKLIST FOR QUALIFYING TRAINING PROVIDERS.