5 Facilitator Challenges in Running Experiential Learning Programs

Facilitating programs using an Experiential Learning approach requires a slightly different skills set and can lead  to very different interactions during the program when compared to more traditional, didactic, ‘chalk and talk’. It gives participants the opportunity to create their own meaning and guide their own learning from the programs. As in all programs some will take the learning directly from the intent of the program, while others determine their own relevance and meaning. As a facilitator of this style of learning I have found these 5 key points central to helping the learners get the most from our programs.

1. Have faith in people’s ability to learn for themselves.

Like many trainers and facilitators I felt the need to ensure people were getting something from my programs. I took it as my responsibility to ‘help them learn.’ If we provide the right environment and program the learners  can and will make experiential learning opportunities work for them. To be an effective facilitator of experiential learning you have to believe that they have the potential to make progress and be committed to the fact that your role is to provide the opportunity and support them in that rather than ensure they are learning.

2. Reactions to experiences vary.

Because the learning is ‘experiential’ no two learners will have exactly the same experience. You cannot predict the learning an individual will take the same messages from any single event. Being prepared for and curious about how individuals assign meaning to an experience is something I have found extremely helpful in facilitating those different thoughts.

3. The learner is central.

It might seem simple to state this but in traditional, didactic learning the trainer / facilitator / teacher is often the centre of attention. The success of the experiential approach depends on the learner’s engagement. Learners can only make best use of their opportunities if they are ready, willing and able to become personally involved in the process. Our role as facilitators is to provide context for that to happen. Learners have to be prepared to actively develop their understanding, critique and evaluate the messages in their context.

4. Resist temptation to give answers.

An observer is in a privileged position, often seeing aspects that are not obvious to others. If you observe a point that isn’t raised during a reflection it is legitimate to raise it, but best through observations and questions. If, despite you stating what you saw or understood to be happening and then questioning, individuals don’t relate to the point, there is no benefit in pursuing as any ‘learning’ will not be theirs.

5. The activity must be real and engaging – not based on artificial hype

A learning activity is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The purpose of an experiential learning activity is to create an opportunity for reflection, new ways of thinking (or being) and a memorable personal learning. The ideal activity will engage, challenge and stimulate with learners becoming absorbed in the task in their own persona or natural behaviour. The activity must be designed and facilitated carefully so that the activity has impact, but doesn’t override the impact and memory of the learning. The size and scope of the activity doesn’t need to have all the ‘bells and whistles’ in order to be memorable and provide real learning. In fact, sometimes the simpler the activity, the more poignant the learning.


To find out more about True North Learning’s Experiential Learning Methodology click here: http://truenorthlearning.com.au/pages/experiential-learning-methodology.php