Experiential Learning Theory

Experiential education is best understood as a philosophy of education, in contrast to learning methodologies such as didactic or rote learning that are mostly concerned with knowledge delivery. Experiential education, however, is concerned with learning from direct first-person experience and a holistic perspective that goes beyond content to include the construction of knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and transfer of learning (Itin, 1997).

Experientially based learning strategies in general have a long history rooted in the early work of John Dewey (1938), and later evolved in work by Piaget (1950), Kurt Hahn (1957), Paulo Freire (1970), Vygotsky (1978), Kolb (1984), Jarvis (1987), and many others. By definition, experiential learning places the locus of control and focus of the process directly within the learner or learners.


XSci’s Operational Definition of Experiential Learning

A Transactional learning strategy in which educators and learners co-engage in direct experience and focused reflection, in concert with private personal interpretative processes on the part of the learner, to construct knowledge, develop skills, and contextualize the meaning of the experience.


Designing Transformative Learning Experiences Using ELVIS

elvis-smallThe Experiential Learning Variables and Indicators Scale (ELVIS) is a tool for designing and assessing teaching and learning efforts in terms of their “experiential-ness.” ELVIS synthesizes many of the best known and well researched models for experiential learning over the past 80 years and boils them down into a very practical instrument that includes seven characteristics of most important and most in common among them. As such, it is intended to be used prescriptively (when designing a learning program), descriptively (when analyzing or comparing programs for degree or kind of experiential-ness), and as an assessment tool for leaders, learners, and evaluators alike. In these ways, we hope ELVIS serves to bridge the gap between theory and practice and can elevate the level of expertise in the fields of formal (classroom based) and informal learning across multiple disciplines and audiences. For more information on ELVIS workshops contact Dr. Brad McLain at


Comments are closed.