The Power of Experiential Learning

Tuesday, January 10, 2012 | Category :

By Rommin Adl

Rommin Adl Photo

The lecture is one of the oldest forms of education. Last week’s National Public Radio broadcast, Physicists Seek To Lose the Lecture As Teaching Tool, demonstrates that traditional lecture and other forms of passive learning are ineffective. At BTS, this concept is not revolutionary. In our work with leading corporations, we have consistently promoted the failures of lecture-based learning. But the physicists now have the hard data to prove it.

Testing tens of thousands of students around the world, the traditional lecture-based physics courses produce limited change in most students’ understanding of fundamental physics concepts. In fact, these classes are only effective for about 10 percent of students and evidence suggests that this 10 percent would learn even without the instructor. The message is clear: listening to someone talk is not an effective way to learn any subject.

But introduce active, engaging teaching methods and student understanding increases tremendously. Harvard physics professor, Eric Mazur, changed his teaching methods twenty years ago to include small group discussions, peer instruction and large group debriefs. “What we found over now close to 20 years of using this approach is that the learning gains at the end of the semester nearly triple,” he says.

Experiential learning is a powerful tool that does not solely apply to academic settings. Today, more and more of today’s leading organizations are adopting cutting-edge learning methodologies to effectively implement critical strategic priorities. As Debrah Gmelin of Humana noted after a BTS program, “People's perspective can change rapidly when you use experiential learning.”

The case for experiential, active learning is compelling and the evidence covered in NPR’s broadcast cannot be ignored. Not a believer in the power of experiential learning? What about now?

Learn more about BTS’s innovative solutions and discover how experiential learning accelerates results for our clients. Hear how participants at Humana responded to a customized BTS program.

About the Author: Rommin Adl is an Executive Vice President at BTS.

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