Why Experiential/Cognitive Learning?

Cognitive education is the style of education most of us are familiar with. The teacher stands in the front of the room and instructs. Experiential education is more involving — the learners are invited to participate, and to learn by doing. Experiential/Cognitive education is a combination.

When I undertake a training task for your organization I use a form of the Experiential/Cognitive educational style. For the subject matter of much of the training I do, I believe it's more effective than either purely cognitive or purely experiential approaches. Since much of what my programs offer is expressible in the cognitive format, I deliver it that way. By communicating clearly the significant conceptual or factual content, I establish a framework, a foundation for learning.

But for the concepts I usually deal with, cognitive approaches are often inadequate by themselves. For example, if I'm dealing with the difficult issues of interpersonal conflict, my objective is to guide in such a way that the new skills and insights will be available to the participants even when they are feeling stressed. Cognitive learning just isn't up to that task.

Experiential learning has some significant advantages in this regard. Using simulations and other metaphors, I create experiences that parallel the situations in which we want the ideas to be available. These simulations might involve movement, role-play, games, art, or improvisation, all directed at creating situations analogous to the ones in which we want the learning to be accessible.

The idea of experiential learning is that by crafting the simulation or metaphor carefully, so as to involve the participants more fully in the training process, the learnings will be more readily accessible in real situations. That's my goal, and that's why I use an Experiential/Cognitive training style.

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