Experiential learning or learning by doing is something that obviously is very familiar to all scouts but do we really use it in other terms than “Learning by mistaking”?
The roots of learning by doing are deep in human learning throughout our history and in the 1970’s David Kolb published his works in experiential learningthat are shown in the famous ‘Kolb’s experiential learning cycle’:
concrete action: an experience that you can describe with facts and concrete words (What happened?).
In this phase the volunteer has gotten involved and the task has been accomplished
reflection: an observation of the feelings aroused by the action and assessment of the behaviour and consequences (What did I experience?)
If it was a team task it is very important for this phase that the team reflects together. Reflecting and sharing as a team adds value for the team and can improve the personal relations of the team, helping colleagues to understand each other better. It is important that the team leader offers a proper reflection using appropriate methods. Also at this moment the volunteer is doing an unconsciousness self-assessment judging their own intrinsic satisfaction. In the first phase of concrete action we can say that the volunteer invested his time and energy for the benefit of scouting, and in this phase it is the moment they invest in themselves.
revision: a generalization to connect the experience to an abstract concept to paint the bigger picture (Why did this happen? What do we learn from this experience ?).
In this phase working with volunteers we can speak about two learning conclusions. One is the personal development of the volunteer and what each individual learned from the experience, maybe a new skill, maybe about himself or the others, maybe a new attitude on a specific topic. Second is the collective learning as a team. What did the team learn from that experience . When this phase if done well we are responding to the extrinsic satisfaction of the volunteers
apply: implementation of the new learnings that are put into concrete actions to gain new experiences that are very likely to be improved from the previous ones (What will I do? How will I use what I learned in the future, in or outside of scouting?)
This will be put into practice in the next tasks. We can help the volunteer and teams to talk about this phase taking into considerations the other phases, and to be able to improve the performance or to use the new skills that they developed.
Speaking about the 4 phases of the experiential learning we can say that in phase 1 and 4, Experience and Applying, the volunteer is offering their time and energy to scouting. In phase 2 and 3 the person in charge of the volunteer’s support is offering the opportunity to bring to the surface the learning outcomes, for personal development. This can be one of the best rewards that scouting can provide for the volunteer.
In the course of a volunteering “career” in Scouting there are many opportunities for learning. So the problem is not the quantity of learning opportunities but rather the quality in how those opportunities are managed and used. It is quite easy to slip into a mode where we do not approach the shortcoming or excelling of a volunteer as something we should learn from, but we might face it just as a mechanical “output”. So it is our real mission to ensure that the whole environment where the volunteering happens is a learning environment.
Thankfully we can do this with four easy steps right after the concrete action or an experience has happened:
Extract the learning
Decide the next steps
The natural process of experiential learning or learning by doing will take care of the rest.