Experiential Learning Explained

Paradigm Shifters promotes participation by our contextually based, experiential and blended learning approach, whether in teams/groups or our individual coaching.


What does this mean, though? It is challenging to describe experiential learning as naturally and experience should be experienced, not explained. Nevertheless, if you cannot get out to one of our public events, here’s our attempt of an explanation and we would be happy to get on a 30 minute call with you so that you can have a bit of an experience yourself.


Why Traditional Leadership Training Fails


It is well known that much of the Leadership Training fails in its stated intent to develop critical thinking, creative and innovative leaders who excel at developing their people.


  • Learning isn’t retained. We lose information rapidly when it isn’t used almost immediately.

  • Learning isn’t applied and people aren’t held accountable to use it.

  • Learning often doesn’t feel relevant to people’s real life situations.


There’s a difference between “Training” people and “Developing” people. Training is about giving people information and having them memorize it essentially. Development, on the other hand, is more about growing capacity in leaders for the ability to come up with new, innovative ideas and approaches.


Why Experiential Learning is a Better Approach


A 2014 US Study on University Students found “A hypothetical average student would move up to the top third of the class if allowed to participate in active learning instead of lectures.”


When we receive information through training, our brains store it. If we learn experientially, our brain actually form a new neural pathway which allows us to use the knowledge we come up in a wider variety of ways and make even more connections.


Incorporating experiential or action learning into courses can increase learning and retention. This is not a new approach so…..


Why don’t more people do it this way if we know it is more effective?


We feel it is easier to just tell people what to do and takes less time. We don’t trust them to get it “right”. As a facilitator of contextually based, experiential learning events, it takes flexibility in not being rigidly attached to the learning agenda, which is how training is usually designed and executed, but to realize and leverage the learning opportunities as they appear in the moment for each learner.

Curious how experiential learning works for you or your team? Schedule a call with us!

How Experiential Learning Works:


There are five aspects to our approach to experiential learning and each one has its purpose and is supported by research:

Experiencing: Doing something, having an experience


  • People who have an experience or activity prior to a lecture obtain better conceptual understanding. They discover and infer relevant concepts, principles, and procedures. It is more difficult and results in superior understanding.

  • You learn from yourself and others’ experiences, making for a more holistic understanding.


Introverted Reflection: Journaling, painting, scribbling

  • Writing by hand is shown to be better for retaining learning than using a keyboard

  • Journaling encourages creativity and new insights

  • Feedback received by the brain through motor actions establish better connections

  • Creates a deeper understanding of yourself

  • Helps you recall the experience which brings back more details


Extroverted Reflection: Sharing, comparing and evaluating with others


  • Telling, showing and sharing with others helps us establish the learning.

  • Teaching somebody how to do something you’ve just learned is the best way to integrate the learning.

  • Debriefing with others enriches your own experience and helps make you aware of both commonalities and differences, both of which create a more practical application

  • You get to understand what you didn’t yet understand and make that connection

  • Should any key piece be left out that people need to be made aware of, it can come out here and then added to the experiential part.


Interpretation & Generalization: Interpreting the experience, conceptualizing learning


  • Learners are transforming their personal experience into a general concept and start to make new meaning of the experience. New rules, behaviors and beliefs are formed, dots are connected and patterns are realized.


Experimentation & Application: Transfer to daily life


  • Participants get a chance to practice, an opportunity to discuss how they might apply the new learning in their environment and hear how others might apply it.

  • Practice again takes it out of theory and into real life application.


Curious how experiential learning works for you or your team? Schedule a call with us!

What Our Clients Say

We serve a wide range of clients, whether they are a start-up team in Vancouver, Seattle or Silicon Valley,

a medium-sized enterprise in Canada or Germany or a large company with a global presence.

We typically start consulting a core team and key stakeholders and expand internal client efforts from there,

growing skills and alliances for sustainable transformation.

Curious how experiential learning works for you or your team? Schedule a call with us!

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Contact Us For Collaborations, Questions Or To Say Hi

We are here to answer any questions you may have about our service offers. Reach out to us and we’ll respond within 24 hours.

Vancouver Office

1965 West 4th Avenue

Suite 202

Vancouver BC, V6J 1M8

Email: info@paradigm-shifters.com

Phone: +1 (604) 260 1005

Fx: +1 (778) 557 2614

Munich Office


Gotzinger Str. 8

81371 Munich

Email: info@paradigm-shifters.com

Phone: +49 (89) 3398 5589

Seattle Office


220 2nd Ave South

Seattle, WA 98104

Email: info@paradigm-shifters.com

Phone: +1 (206) 299 0831

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Paradigm Shifters Consulting

Adi Breuer

1916 Pike Place Ste 12 #1325

Seattle, WA 98101


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