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Erfahrungslernen in der berufsbezogenen Aus- und Weiterbildung

Maintainer: Jens Weber, Version 2, 19.02.2001
Projekt-Typ: halboffen
Status: Archiv

Preface - Vorbemerkung

(1) This project results from my interest in the concept of experiential learning (EL) and its opportunities. I started this project for discussion and promotion of EL and its reasonable application in the field of vocational education. Everybody is invited to share thoughts, experiences and examples, following the idea of 'open theory development'. I don't want to hide that I am involved myself in university and commercial education, and therefore there are strong links between this project and my professional activity. However, the project itself is strictly non-commercial. It is intended as a market-place of ideas, thoughts, hints, links, experiences. The project is bi-lingual, that is, contributions in both German and English are welcome. - Ja, richtig, es ist ein zweisprachiges Projekt; man kann gern auch Kommentare auf deutsch schreiben.

Experiential Learning, what is it?

(2) Experiential learning (EL) means learning from the evaluation of one's experiences in solving some problem. As everybody continuously makes experiences and automatically learns from them, it is a quite intuitive idea to apply this process in education and training. A widely used explanation of EL is that by Kolb (1984) who assumes a cycle of four actions which is repeated for each single problem situation: 1) problem analysis and decision, 2) action and experience, 3) observation and reflection, and 4) generalization. The 'generalization' step transfers problem-specific knowledge to problem-independent knowledge, and, thus, increases the knowledge available for new situations. 'Learning' in this sense should be seen as the development of compentence, where competence is the ability to act in an appropriate way in a (maybe new, but realistic) future situation.

Experiential learning in vocational training

(3) The idea of experiential learning applys especially in situations where competence is the dominant learning goal. The key role of competence in vocational training is obvious: the learner should develop all those abilities which are necessary for professional life. Therefore, EL is a key issue in vocational (including university) education. Its application is, however, still far away from the opportunities. And more, those who apply EL and try to put it forward are still mostly working on their own.

Practical considerations

(4) EL is a *learning method*, not a *teaching method*. The problem therefore is, to set the learning situation in a way that facilitates EL. In my opinion, basic conditions for having EL taking place in an efficient way are the following: 1) There must be a learning environment, where the learner can actually do something on his/her own decision. That means not only talking or discussion, but acting in a way which can give experiences relevant for the desired competence. 2) The role of the teacher/trainer is not that of a source of information but that of a coach or guide, who helps the learner on his/her way. 3) In order to make it goals oriented, learners and trainer should agree about learning goals. 4) A minimum of methods has to be included: experiential inventories, review discussion (according to some review questions), debriefing, individual coaching, group work.

(5) There exist various business simulations, or simulation games. One of them is the International Logistics Management game, where I am involved in. [http://www.ilmg.com/] - However, they remained in a marginal role in most education programs. Probably only a few courses are really based on a business simulation - or maybe there are more, but no information about them. In addition, approaches to using business simulations are quite different; reasons for particular approaches would be interesting.

(6) Another example are case studys, widely used in both university and extra-university training. However, case studies employ the EL principle only in a limited way: There is only one problem situation, it is dealt with it only once, and if the evaluation of results consists only of a 'good' or 'bad', and perhaps a presentation of the 'correct' solution, then there won't be much EL.

(7) Consequently, for me the only two learning situations feasible for EL in vocational training are simulations and the evaluation of real-life experiences (like projects).


(8) *Learning* as development in competence is consistent with most concepts of learning, including behavioristic ones: A higher competence (rational behavior assumed) means necessarily a change in behavior. *Competence* can be defined as a collection of knowledge and abilities which allows to cope with possible future problems in some areas of life. Usually, four areas of competence are distinguished: 1) cognitive competence (concepts, facts), 2) behavioral competence (emotions, social contacts), 3) instrumental (methods), 4) motoric (motions). Meta-competence is competence of a higher level, that is, the 'competence of compentence building' (= learning competence). it might be divided into the same four areas.

(8.1) Re: Theory, 23.10.2004, 10:05, Torsten Prof. Dr. Fischer: Wir könnten zu Ihrem Papier im Internet uns einmal telefonisch austauschen. Was halten Sie davon? Beste Grüße Torsten Fischer

(8.1.1) Re: Theory, 09.11.2004, 15:58, Jens Weber: Gern. Mailen Sie mir doch mal, wie ich Sie erreichen kann. Jens Weber

(9) *Transfer* means the generalization of problem-specific experiences to problem independent knowledge. Obviously, this is the step which gives learning in the whole EL process. In a more general view transfer takes place from the situation discussed in the course (or the simulation) to the real-world problem. Both are connected with each other.

(10) Rather often EL is linked to *Self-directed Learning (SDL)*. Although there are strong links (as any experience can only be made if there is an opportunity of individual action) the concepts stem from different approaches. EL is a type of learning, or individual development (which -conscious or unconscious- always takes place), where SDL means a certain organization of the learning process. It would be interesting, to which extent efficient EL and self-directed learning depend on each other.


(11) Two questions are in the beginning: what means efficiency of learning, and how can it be measured. If learning is seen as competence building, then a written test after the course is probably a bad indicator. It shows how good some facts from the course are stored in short term memory, but not very much about the ability of problem solving in the professional practice. It's not clear to me how *increase in competence* can be measured. Delayed tests (which measure retention of knowledge over time) might be a better indicator, but then the problem of uncontrollable bias (during the time in-between) comes up.

(12) Interestingly, most studys which compare teaching methods focussing on EL with other methods show no significant difference when based on a immediate test after the course. Where they use delayed tests, the results are in favor of EL!

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