Diverse group of people sitting around a decorative table strategizing.

Experiential Learning

I think it is safe to say that most adults learn through work experiences.  We also know that adults are ready to learn when it is directed towards growth and development related to their work.  Because adults are intrinsically motivated to learn, they are more open to experiential learning.  Experiential Learning theory states that “knowledge is created through the transformation of experience…resulting from the combinations of grasping and transforming the experience.” 

Experiential Learning is experienced through four stages.  

  • Concrete Experience – the adult learner encounters a new experience that requires observation and learning from this experience.
  • Reflective Observation – the adult learner assesses their experiences and draws conclusions. 
  • Abstract Conceptualization – the adult learner develops new theories, ideas or  modifies existing schemas. 
  • Active Experimentation –  the adult learner applies the new learned knowledge to real world scenarios while evaluating and modifying as necessary. 

I experience these stages of experiential learning when I took on a new role in a previous work experience.  The following is a synopsis on how I came up with a strategy to implement a new mandate for implementing an environmental strategic plan.  

Learning and Developing New Strategies 

Many moons ago, I worked for a local mental health government agency that provided community base prevention programs and services to school age young people.  Much of the programing focused on providing psycho education in small communities and other activities to reduce risk factors.  

Concrete Experience

During that time, the state passed new reforms and it required all prevention service departments in the state to conduct community needs assessments and develop an environmental strategic plan based on the analysis.  The state wanted to get away from the traditional style of service delivery and reach a wider audience.  Our department did a great job triangulating data and identifying risk factors that were impacting our greater region.  We developed our goals and objectives and felt that we were ready to meet the challenge. Because of this new initiative, my role changed within the department. I was a primary coordinator for designing and developing new approaches to delivering our goals and objectives.  

Reflective Observation

This was a new paradigm and it was definitely a challenge.  Not everyone was open to the changes that needed to take place, but it was a new direction we would have to travel in order to meet our new mandates.  There were four areas that were important for the success of this new paradigm.  It required building and audience, adapting new ways of marketing outreach, use of new technologies to educate a wider audience as well as new evaluation methodologies for collecting data.  As part of the strategic planning, I knew we had to build our audience.  

Abstract Conceptualization

This would require building new capacities and networks.  Social media would play a big role in building this new audience and I needed the voices of young people to make this work.  I also realized that media campaigns would have to be implemented.  Our community base educational programming would have to change as well to reach our wider audience.  As I was considering this areas, I also realized that our evaluation tools would have to be reconsidered to make sure that we were measuring outcomes vs anecdotal outputs.  

Active Experimentation

The following videos are summaries of of what I learned during my time designing, developing and implementing effective environmental strategic plans.  I started the series with the Evaluation Tools as a practice of using Backwards Design.  Evaluation tools are critical in all phases to determine what is working and what needs to be modified in order to meet the goals.  Overall, everything is the process is inter connected. I hope you see the patterns and that this information is useful and transferable to anyone looking at implementing environmental strategic plans to change risk factors that impact community norms.

Checklist required for effective outcomes

Strategies for effective media campaigns

Educating a wider audience