This entry was actually posted on 18th March 2023. The day I decided to start posting my university assignments to my journal.
This is the first assignment I wrote and submitted in December 2019. Looking back it’s good to see my writing style improved greatly.
The subject was all about “Experiential Learning.” The questions was “Describe experiential learning, discuss why experiential learning is significant for social care practice and provide examples of this learning in practice.” – Which I totally plagiarised in the second paragraph! Oops!
Experiential learning is a process whereby learning is achieved through experience. Keeton and Tate (as cited in Kolb, 2015) give the definition as “learning in which the learner is directly in touch with the realities being studied.” When trying a new experience and discovering it is not enjoyable or does not give the desired results, then making the decision to not repeat it, this is an experience you have learned from. Experiential learning is learning by doing. David A. Kolb defines the term “experiential learning” as learning from life experience (Kolb, 2015).
This assignment will describe experiential learning, discuss why experiential learning is significant for social care practice and provide examples of this learning in practice.
Experiential learning occurs when a person learns by doing rather than learning through more common, standard methods of learning such as being taught by a teacher in a classroom. Kolb and Kolb (as cited in Kolb, 2015) refer to experiential learning as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” In this process the learner plays an active role in their education rather than a passive role.
Through his research David Kolb developed the Kolb Experiential Learning Model which is composed of four elements: Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualisation and Active Experimentation. This process covers all aspects of learning. They take part in the experience (concrete experience) then they reflect on that experience (reflective observation). Following this the learner then thinks about the experience (abstract conceptualisation), looking at what they have learned and how to take this information forward. Finally the learner acts upon this experience (active experimentation). This might involving making changes to the initial experience and repeating it but it could also mean that there is nothing to change. Either way the learner has learned by doing. Learning arises from the resolution of creative tension among these four learning modes (Kolb, 2015).
Experiential learning can often bring more positive results as it does not rely on standard learning methods which state what is right and wrong. It allows for the exploration of learning. People learn and develop in different ways and in different directions, if they can be given the chance. One size does not fit all. (Thompson, 2019)
In social care practice, experiential learning has an important place to ensure the best possible care for the individual. With this best possible care we are ensuring the individuals human rights, dignity, equality and best possible health are all being met. We are also ensuring the person supported has the freedom of choice in his or her care.
Experiential learning allows us to take a truly holistic approach in the social care of the individual.
In the case of a person supported with an intellectual disability, who being unable to communicate through verbal methods uses Lámh, it is important that the carer has an understanding of the Lámh communication system. This includes understanding that some of the signs the person may use are not as they appear in the Lámh manual. Manual sign systems (sometimes called key word signs or adapted signs) have been adapted from the natural sign language of the country they are used in, and are used by people with intellectual disability and communications needs (M. Farrell, 2012)
Reflective practice, the process of studying your own experiences to improve the way you work, is essential to experiential learning. Horwath & Morrison (as cited in Carty, 2015) state that experiential learning occurs through ‘the accumulation and reflection on experience, which is an interaction between the internal world of the individual and what is going on externally’ (Carty, 2015)
Taking the example of a person supported using the Lámh communication system, the sign for “Hello” is similar to a salute whereas many persons using Lámh, and also people not using it, will wave to express the greeting. The “salute” is seen as a more military greeting. This is an official gesture of greeting and farewell used by military men when military headgear is worn (service cap, peakless cap, etc) (Plessis, 1998).
Through reflective practice we can see that a person supported may not know, use or understand the salute gesture for “hello” and instead use a wave. We can then change our communication style in line with the person being supported. This is learning through experience. We have learned something about that person being supported which will in turn ensure the person has the best possible social care by being able to communicate his or her needs and wants.
This process can be used for all manner of care and support for the individual and is essential in the social care setting.
In the environment of a person supported who has behaviours that challenge, experiential learning through reflective practice can prove invaluable. When a report is being written based upon the activities of the day, the report is often used to determine the supports and care given by the staff coming on duty during the next shift. If the behaviour of a person supported has been particularly challenging, the wording of the report may reflect that behaviour and the terminology used may be based on personal opinion and emotions. Words such as happy, sad, angry and good or poor form, often used in Ireland, can be subjective and not give enough definition to the state and/or behaviour of the individual. While the social care worker completing the form may know exactly what happened, someone who was not present at the incident could have another interpretation of the word ‘angry’, hence the importance of further defining a behaviour (Howard & Lyons, 2014)
As each person supported is an individual with different wants and needs, it is important to realise that there will be no one approach that suits every individual. With this in mind we can suggest that through experiential learning we can discover the preferred way a person supported wishes to exercise their individuality, wants, needs and rights. Be it from what they prefer to be called to what they need when they are feeling alone or isolated. Documenting this allows others to learn from the experience of the previous carer.
In this assignment we have looked at what experiential learning is and the learning cycle developed by David A. Kolb. A cycle that uses four distinct processes of learning that enables change when necessary. Using practice examples we’ve seen why experiential learning is important in social care. We have seen that the learner plays an active role in their education rather than a passive one and looked at the importance of reflection in experiential learning. Using those examples from practice we’ve seen how different gestures and words can mean different things to different people and explained how it is important that this is documented to ensure the best possible care for the person being supported.
Carty, C. (2015). Introduction to integrated and experiential learning. National University of Ieland, Galway.
Howard, N., & Lyons, D. (2014). Social care : learning from practice. Dublin : Gill & Macmillan.
Kolb, D. A. (2015). Experiential learning : experience as the source of learning and development (Second edition. ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey : Pearson Education Ltd.
M. Farrell, M. H., M. Cullen. (2012). Using Lámh in a total communication approach; Participant Handbook. Lamh.
Plessis, I. G.-D. (1998). Russian Male Gestures for Greeting and Bidding Farewell. Language matters (Pretoria, South Africa), 29(1), 132-178. https://doi.org/10.1080/10228199808566136
Thompson, M. C., A. (2019). Experiential Learning. BusinessBalls.com. https://www.businessballs.com/self-awareness/experiential-learning/