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Learn From Your Own Experience

Did you learn to ride a bicycle when you were a child? If you did – did you learn by reading a book about riding bicycles, or listening to a lecture? Probably you got on the bicycle, with somebody holding you up, wobbled off down the street, fell down and cried, got back on and tried again, and before long you had learned how. As a result, even if it's been 20 years since you rode a bicycle, you could get on one today and ride away. You still know how - because you learned experientially. It was personal, so that riding a bicycle became part of you, ingrained in your muscles and nerves, something you'll never forget.

The AsiaWorks Basic Training, is based on the experiential approach to learning.

Experiential learning is hands-on learning-experimenting, trying different approaches, discovering what works by doing it ourselves.

Today we spend 12 or 16 or even more years (in elementary school, secondary school, and university) in an environment where the main approach to learning is not experiential but intellectual. In intellectual learning, we are primarily passive listeners or observers. When we listen to a lecture, read a book, watch a movie or a TV show, we may understand what is being presented (and even care about it), but we remain detached, uninvolved except at the mental level. The learning-whether the subject is geography or math or human anatomy-remains at arm's length. It doesn't affect us personally. We may add to our store of facts and figures through intellectual learning, but 99 percent of the time we are not changed at the personal level. Our behaviour, our habits of thinking and feeling and acting, remain unaffected.


Because it's impersonal, intellectual learning doesn't last. Over time, we retain only a small amount of what we learn. For example, what percentage of all the facts and figures you learned in secondary school do you remember today? Studies show that if you're like the majority of people, you've retained less than 25 percent-in spite of the hundreds of hours you spent listening to the teacher's lectures and studying for exams. Not because you're unintelligent-but because the intellectual approach to learning is ineffective. What we learn goes in one ear and out the other.

One of the main reasons for its ineffectiveness is that in the intellectual approach, the responsibility for learning lies primarily with the teacher, not the student. That's why the intellectual learning is sometimes called the "mug and jug" theory of education (See Experiential Learning Theory for details.) The student is an empty mug, and the teacher's job is to pour knowledge in and fill the vacuum. If the teacher gives a good lecture, so goes the theory, the student will learn. If the student doesn't learn, the teacher was ineffective.

By contrast, in the experiential approach, the responsibility for learning rests with the student. The person leading an experiential learning session is not a "teacher" (not a jug of superior knowledge who will fill up the students' empty mugs), but a facilitator. The skill of the facilitator is in setting up a powerful learning environment and creating rich learning opportunities. The student's job is to take maximum advantage of those opportunities by participating fully, by getting involved, by being willing to discover, through experience, what is important to them.

Experiential learning is a discovery process, in which learning happens through participation-at the physical, emotional and intellectual level. The learning is personal rather than impersonal. There are no right answers. Our bodies are involved, our feelings are evoked and our mind is active. All of who we are is engaged.

If you are ready to discover and become aware of the way you behave in the important areas of your life - your career, your relationships, your family, your goals and your direction for the future – then learning from your own experience in the AsiaWorks Basic Training may be just what you are looking for!


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