Tip #168: Interactive versus Experiential Learning

Interactive learning strategies and experiential training methods are often considered interchangeable. However, it is possible to make a distinction between them.

Interactive learning strategies engage learners by allowing them to actively participate and verbally respond within the learning environment. Group discussion, case studies, questionnaires, and crossword puzzles easily fall within this category, which is characterized by mental stimulation and verbal expression.

Experiential training methods engage learners physically, mentally and emotionally in a multisensory experience. Simulation, visualization, dramatization, role plays and physical movement easily fall within this category, which is characterized by emotional stimulation and physical expression.

However, the design and facilitation of a training method will ultimately determine whether it is interactive, experiential, or both. For example, physical movement can be added to almost any activity by having groups stand together, moving participants into different pairings, or adding a walking component. Building an activity around a meaningful metaphor can add an emotional component by tapping into the participants’ experiential memories.

Bottom line: the more the learners are engaged and stimulated mentally, emotionally, and physically, the more likely they are to learn and to retain what they have learned.

There are approximately ten broad categories of interactive or experiential learning strategies.

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