Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) provides a holistic model of the learning process and is a multi-linear model of adult development, both of which are consistent with what we know about how we naturally learn, grow, and develop. The theory is called “Experiential Learning” to emphasize the central role that experience plays in the learning process.
In 1984, David A. Kolb, published a ground breaking book entitled Experiential Learning: experience as the source of learning and development (Englewood Cliffs, Prentice Hall, 1984). This book essentially exposed the principle that a person would learn through discovery and experience. The reason the theory is called “experiential” is its intellectual origins are taken from the experiential work of Lewin, Piaget, Dewey, Freire and James, forming a unique perspective on learning and development.
It’s crazy. What that says is that teaching and training don’t require the practitioner to understand how people learn. You wouldn’t want a neuro-surgeon to operate on you if that surgeon had no idea of how the brain worked, because you know that there’s no such thing as “cookie-cutter” brain surgery. Yet, for trainers, it’s almost the norm.
In some ways, the training industry has a large contingent of those that feel they need to know almost nothing about how people learn. They believe that because they can remember 10 principles of adult learning, they are prepared to take on any and all challenges of training delivery.