What’s more exciting, planning an addition to your home or living it it?  Do you prefer to shop for new shoes or see them in your closet.  What is more fun, hunting for game or shooting it?  I can say from personal experience driving off the lot with a new car is not nearly as exciting as the negotiation.

In this podcast, the speaker shares her thoughts on the book Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin.  The podcast is about 15 minutes long.  If you don’t have time to listen I will summarize what prompted me to write a post about it.  In the book the author cites research that challenges the theory that dopamine is released as a reward for completing a task.  Dopamine is a powerful brain chemical that  is released by naturally rewarding experiences.  She references research that suggests it is not the finding that stimulates dopamine release but the searching.  From my experience this appears to be valid.

These findings provide support for experiential learning.  In a traditional approach to learning, instructors disseminate information through lecture and the participants listen passively.  There is no challenge.  If there are any questions asked they are mostly low level recall questions.  To quote B.B. King, “the thrill is gone.”

Not only does traditional learning have a negative impact on learner motivation it also has an impact on learner outcomes.  Since the participants are not actively engaged with the content in a traditional approach, it is difficult for them to recall and apply the information correctly when they return to the workplace.  Utilizing an experiential approach engages learners in such a way that they are motivated to seek information and are able incorporate it into their existing knowledge and experience.  When learners participate in experiential learning they are able to recall and apply what they learned more effectively.

Here are some tips for experiential learning.

  1. Challenge your learners.  Giving your learners an authentic challenge that makes them work to complete is motivating and will lead to better outcomes.  Problem-based learning is a great way to introduce challenge into your instruction.
  2. Don’t spoon-feed.  Respect is a key aspect of adult learning.  By asking questions that do not have clear answers and require thought you show respect for your audience.  Often it is the discussion that has a greater impact than getting the right answer.
  3. Use relevant examples.  Adult learners want their learning to relate to personal experiences.  Using a teaching scenario that is not clearly related to the learner’s context may confuse the participants and will undermine the learning outcomes.