for the unknown, even in unfamiliar territory, doesn't
have to be a confusing trip through the house of mirrors.
Not if you use the Experiential Learning Process.
Start with what life hands us over and over again every
day - experiences. Because they come in so many shapes
and sizes -- struggling with a problem, searching for
a creative solution, answering a question from a coworker,
even reading a paragraph of gibberish - it's easy to
get started. Just choose one.
every experience provides a portal to new learning and
discovery, we need to help our participants open the
door and explore. We do this by asking questions that
guide them through the learning process.
The first step of this exploration is to understand
the experience, to "analyze" it, so we'll
want to ask questions such as:
important to ensure our understanding of the experience
is accurate and complete, especially if we've shared
this experience as a group.
When we're confident we understand the experience, our
next step is to "generalize" the experience
by relating it in some way to something else in our
lives that matters - to something we care about.
instance, after reading that people can make sense of
a paragraph of gibberish as long as the first and last
letter of each word are correct (the rest of the letters
just need to be in there somewhere), Steve then asked
himself how he could relate this to facilitation (a
subject he cares a great deal about).
help us generalize our experiences, try asking:
does this relate to . . . ?
else works this way?
else could work this way?
key is to look for connections, so open your mind and
reach for new perspectives. This often results in "surprises"
as we discover connections we didn't expect, and haven't
importantly, Don't give up! Be persistent - you don't
want to leave this step too soon. Finding connections
can be as exciting and rewarding as uncovering a Pirate's
hidden treasure chest.
if we don't find a buried chest of treasure, if we're
persistent, and open our minds, we'll almost always
find one of those exciting insights or ah-ha's that
makes us want to tell everyone else about it, and those
are more valuable than a handful of doubloons.
But it's not enough to just find the treasure. We have
to put this valuable learning to work by asking how
we can "apply" it.
questions can help us take this step.
do we put this to work?
do we need to DO differently?
course, as we take these actions they'll lead us to
new experiences, and if we continue to look for them,
Resistance. Overcoming the "they'll never sit
still for this" reservation about your proposed
activity, exercise or "game."
the most conservative, reserved participants will do
off-the-wall things if they see a point to it. The trick
is to help them see the relevance of the activity -
how it's going to help improve the performance of the
group. You can use the Experiential Learning Process
to show the group how you're going to make the connection.
Share the process with them up front so they know where
you still find strong resistance, even as you start
your activity, it's often best to "interrupt"
the activity - stop the action and put it on hold while
you use questions to take the group through the analyze-generalize-apply
steps of the Experiential Learning Process. Make it
quick. Make it relevant. The point is to show the participants
that there is value in doing the activity. Then resume
the activity, or if it's more appropriate, restart the
activity from the beginning. Either way, be sure to
take the group through the Experiential Learning Process
after they finish the activity so you can help them
squeeze all the learning out of the experience.
you take them through the process, their reservations
About the Author: Norman
is a Professor of Program Management & Leadership
at the Defense Acquisition University and is passionate
about learning facilitation.
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