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Adults Learn Best Through Experience

Julius Caesar spoke an eternal truth when he said, “Experience is the teacher of all things.” From ancient times through today, true learning experiences impart foundational lessons that influence our attitudes and behaviors, and in some cases, our successes and failures.

Not every experience delivers life lessons. Instead, through reflection and selfanalysis, learning experiences have a direct and emotional effect on your thinking and understanding of yourself.

“Experiential learning follows a cycle of facing a difficult situation, learning from it, applying the lessons and then repeating the process for continual growth,” says John Regentin, Vice President of Experiential Leadership with FCCS.

Experiential learning is based on the premise that adults learn best by doing and by making sense of their experiences. According to the Center for Creative Leadership, people obtain 70% of their knowledge from “challenging experiences and assignments,” with the rest coming from relationships and formal training.

“We still need classroom learning to get the context for learning and the technical elements of leadership, but then an experiential learning program or event can embed the lessons through an emotional connection to the experience,” says John.

“Leadership development is about vision and connections, not technical skills, and experience is the best way to develop the leadership ability to leverage team members’ skills, motivate performance and build a strong culture.”

Learning experiences don’t need to be formal programs, although FCCS does offer the industry-leading Gettysburg Leadership Experience and Lewis & Clark Experience programs, as well as custom-designed learning experiences including a sea kayaking experience called Holding the Edge, a 24-hour overnight hike or a revealing and uncompromising look into your life’s trajectory with a group on a shared, 3-month coaching experience.

“Any experience can become a learning experience if it’s impactful and, through personal reflection or external feedback, you identify and internalize a lesson toward improvement in a professional attribute or growth area being targeted,” says John. “Abilities like vision, strategy, adaptation and alignment are most effectively developed through this kind of experiential learning.”

Daily experiential learning is possible in a culture that’s open to feedback, where leaders are equipped and ready to deliver in-the-moment micro-feedback to team members, and everyone is willing to accept such positive and negative feedback as a valuable tool for their personal and leadership growth.

Such feedback should be based on observable behaviors and reactions, and be
meaningful, impactful and applicable. One example is telling a presenter at what points the audience was particularly engaged, or disengaged, immediately following the meeting so they can make small corrections to their speaking approach. Receiving the feedback in the emotional aftermath of delivering the presentation embeds the lesson and gives them actionable direction for improvement.

A more formal approach is also feasible, identifying a specific task to assess a
specific skill, with the expectation of feedback and reflection about how to apply it to follow. When repeated across multiple events, it becomes an experiential learning cycle toward continual professional improvement. For a learning experience to be sustained, there must be observable action or changes in behavior afterwards, and touchpoints to ensure that growth continues based on the learning experience and its lessons.

“We can’t improve in a vacuum, so we need to invite feedback from our peers and leaders, and seek learning experiences, either individually or as a team, that will provide the opportunity for real growth through discussion and reflection on how the lessons learned can be applied to your best advantage,” says John.

For Dedicated or Custom Learning Experience Programs:
Contact John Regentin at 717-752-0495 or via email.

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