Experiential learning is an active and co-creative process, which engages you to discover what is wanted and needed to reach the next level of fulfillment or success in any area of your life. Practically, it occurs when participants are present in the experience, rather than note taking, memorization or studying.
In 1983, David A. Kolb, published a groundbreaking book entitled Experiential Learning: Experience As the Source of Learning and Development (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.
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. This practice focuses on the central role that experience plays in the learning process.
Learning how to swim or ride a bike are great examples of experiential learning. They illustrate the widely known four-step experiential learning model (ELM) as purported by Kolb and outlined in the image.
Following this example, in the "concrete experience" stage, the learner physically experiences the bike in the "here-and-now." This experience forms "the basis for observation and reflection" and he or she has the opportunity to consider what is working or failing (reflective observation), and think about ways to improve on the next attempt made at riding it (abstract conceptualization). Every new attempt to ride is informed by a cyclical pattern of previous experience, thought and reflection (active experimentation).