Human Resource Development

Experiential Learning 

Learning is a common term that many academicians have tried to define. Psychologists define learning as an acquisition of knowledge that results in a permanent change of behavior. Moreover, motivation, conditioning and reinforcement are the elements of the learning process. Furthermore, Kolb has created a model of learning that can be applicable in a variety of situations both formal and informal. In many occasions, people admire things done in the right way. However, the efforts and skills required are mostly acquired from the environment. Learning from the environment involves responding to experiments, analyzing the outcomes and applying them in a daily life. In other words, the process of learning involves the modifications of actions. This paper will discuss experiential learning, its proponents, stages and applicability. In addition, the paper will analyze the importance of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as a part of career development process.

The environment is a learning stimulus that elicits response. People tend to act with benefit in mind and, therefore, eliminate the behaviors that are not valuable. Adjusting to a way of life and permanently practicing it is a form of learning. In some cases, as children are playing they mimic their parents, and copy the personalities they engage with regularly. The learning process children are exposed to in this situation forms a collaborative effort that aids the learner to comprehend ideas (Armstrong & Fukami, 2008). Consequently, children engage in the experiential learning. Moreover, it extends to adult life. When a person is choosing a partner or career he/she will probably respond to the learning incentives from the environments. Experience has been regarded as the best tool that one can use to gain an understanding of the issues, solve the problems and succeed in the real world (Kolb, 1984).

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Experiential learning can alternatively be viewed as learning through acts, or learning through investigation and unearthing of knowledge, skills and attitude. In ancient societies some scholars have expressed their views on knowledge acquisition experiences.  Many are proponents of experiential learning.  In 450 BC, Confucius expressed thoughts on experiential learning saying that “concepts heard are forgotten, if they are seen are remembered but not applied and when these concepts are practiced they bring about learning” (Miettinen, 2000). Others who added their understanding on experiential learning were Benjamin Franklin in 1750 and John Dewey in 1938. The later has made an immense contribution on how to correctly acquire skills and attitudes (Northern Illinois University, 2013).

Research shows that many higher education institutions are marred with lecturing and memorizing of concepts. This provides students with little expertise when they have to put their knowledge to practice. Many employers have adapted ways to keep their workforce up-to-date with modern trends of meeting their objectives. As a result, employers encounter unnecessary costs which they could have overcome if educational institutions did equip students with the right form of knowledge (Northern Illinois University, 2013).

Debates and group works are significant in developing needed skills. They create an opportunity for students to work together for a common purpose. However, if these skills are not nurtured they will not be helpful in achieving objectives (Kathleen, 1992). A group effort to reach a goal eases the process and reduces tearing and wearing of the mind.

Various variables support experiential learning. It involves extraction of common trends in a field of study. For example, in a law company, the learners may study real case whether completed or in process, and form a panel of prosecutors and defense to practice the learned material (Manning, 2011).

The next step is to analyze the collected information from the court. Ideally, learners should be able to see how the judge was making his decision. Later, the parties involved should analyze not only the cases but the process as well in order to understand the logic of a judicial process. At the end of the proceedings they should evaluate the process by making associations with the acquired skills (Ord, 2012).

The process can be recapitulated in the following steps. First step is to identify the topic that is handed out and later worked on. This is called experimentation or doing.  Secondly, the instructors should guide the process and provide learners with actual tasks. The role of the subjects in this step is to make models, present their ideas, make conclusions and solve problems. The key idea in an experiential learning is for students to learn from the experiences (Wurdinger, 2005).

After the experiment the apprentices will share the outcomes among themselves. They will react to their own findings and observations and build discussions to generalize their ideas. The sharing process enables them to reflect back and gain skills from these models for the future use. This is the stage where the right learning outcome is upheld. For instance, from the law case the learners are expected to acquire a skill of properly and intelligently responding to questions in the court (Wurdinger, 2005).  

Reflection leads to analysis. At this phase the minds of the learners encode the right way of performing a given task. In addition, at this point learners note the problems they encountered and formulate measures to overcome them in the future. It is important to note that in a single model many themes can emerge. Therefore, the students are expected to identify all possible outcomes at this juncture (Ord, 2012).

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Generalization of the concepts discovered is the next step. The learners will link their outcomes to real life situations. From the case study above, the learners will try to link their experience to real court proceedings. This is significant since it pushes learners to identify practical doctrines that emerged in the model created (Manning, 2011). 

The most important part of experiential learning is application of the concepts learned from the model. The past experiences usually form the basis or the course of actions for the new situation.  New situation may be different or similar to the sample study. As a result, the learners will be able to refer to the experiences gained during the practical learning process and apply those concepts in a new situation. In addition, learners be more successful in future challenges. It is vital for the learners feel the positive outcomes of the experiential learning. When the models are confined within institutional boundaries for the purpose of learning, it is referred to as classroom-based learning.  The other type of experiential learning is when the students engage in practicum and internships. This is referred to as fixed-based experiential learning (Ord, 2012).

Experiential learning has both merits and demerits. The advantages are often abserved when students go for their internships and practicum. Although many educational institutions practice rote learning, the significance of experiential learning is inevitable. This is often an important reason why many students choose to go for practicum during and after their study years. This is to equip them with applicable career skills and to make them create associations with the working environment (Miettinen, 2000).

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In addition, some of successful businessmen such as Donald Trump put an emphasis on building and nurturing business skills through apprenticeship. Apprenticeship and experiential learning are experiences with similar principles. Therefore, it is an important practice in career development. 

“The Apprenticeship” is a reality show that brings together business people from different spheres to compete in becoming the apprentice. It is a completion the sixteen participants are placed in two groups each containing eight members. The two groups are given corporate related tasks and they are supposed to complete their assignment within a stipulated time frame. Contestants work on given models at each stage of the challenge (Cameron, 2014).

This reality show is a perfect example of the experiential learning. At each stage the contenders are punished with elimination. At the final stage the outstanding candidate is crowned with the apprentice. Individuals who study the strengths and weakness of the team usually have higher prospects of becoming a winner. Therefore, the show itself is a model used in equipping participants with business skills through the experiential teaching (Cameron, 2014).

According to Jean Piaget experiential learning is not a third perspective from cognitive or behavioral learning premises (McGuire, 2000). However, it is a perspective that integrates psychological ideas of learning. It encompasses perception, experience, behavior and cognition (Manning, 2011). Therefore, this learning perspective is an important approach that can be utilized in any field of practice such as law, business and education in general.

Nonetheless, experiential learning is expensive and time consuming process. Creating models and learning from them requires a great deal of time. Therefore, a traditional form of education has a comparative time advantage. Practical lessons are expensive because many of them require experiential tools, which often have to be purchased. This makes it more expensive than lecturing (Wurdinger, 2005).

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The other demerit of the experiential learning is that it does not care for individual differences. People have different perceptions, and in this case perceptions form a foundation for the conclusions drawn after a study. Consequently, the desired outcome of a model may not be realized (Manning, 2011).

Therefore, experiential learning is a very practical approach to learning. It can be used in different situation and enhances quick and permanent change of behaviors. The efforts to achieve an outcome are great and have a lot of value. Greater effort yields better results while alternatives give worse results. Kolb’s experiential theory is linked to practice, therefore, allowing its applicability in various dimensions. However, it has some shortcomings which if are not taken into account during execution of the learning process may negatively affect the model and the outcome.

Importance of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as Part of the Career Development Process

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a lifelong learning process that follows four main stages. All learning processes that one undertakes to improve in the work environment can be considered as a part of Continuing Professional Development (CPD). On the other hand, career development is a lifelong process that entails the management of education, work and leisure in order to enhance the fulfillment of one’s future.

Reflection can be defined as a practice of thinking about one’s profession. Planning involves the arrangement of how, when and what one is going to learn. Action is a process of recording what one is learning. Evaluation is the identification of the benefits that one gains throughout the learning process. Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is a method an organization uses to increase the competence level of their staff.  Professional and personal fulfillment is possible through continuous professional development.

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This process enables the improvement of employees’ self-esteem and morale, leading to continued increased productivity which in turn will enhance career development. CPD is usually achieved through a number of avenues ranging from the organization, the team and the individual (Friedman, Watts, Croston & Durkin, 2002). CPD often leads to a career development since it guides one towards an overall change of thinking, perspectives and attitudes. As the change occurs, individuals are able to apply positive development in their holistic lives.  

Continued professional development offers the staff an opportunity to progressively develop their skills and abilities, which can be used in increasing staff loyalty (Goodall, Day, Lindsay, Muijs & Harris, 2005). As a result, as skills and expertise are improved progressively, the staff is able to deliver to the expected standards. This means that they will not be demoralized. Achieving high results motivates employees and keeps them loyal.

It is because of the continued professional development that workers within an organization will be given maximum equality for available opportunities. The opportunities for development should be available to everyone giving a chance to plan their own professional development. As time passes, those who participated in the advanced learning processes might be able to move up the professional ladder.

The contemporary working environment is a dynamic continuously changing system that requires everyone to be updated with the current and relevant information. New information will eventually contribute to their growth and their capability to deal with the ever-changing work environment (Friedman, Watts, Croston & Durkin, 2002). 

The Chartered Institute of Personal and Development (CIPD) is a professional body for the Human Resource Management practices. It views Continuing Professional Development as a personal initiative that will ultimately ensure workers to be equipped with the essential skills that will contribute to facing the challenges in the working environment (CIPD, 2007).

CIPD has been an effective change agent in the society. For example, the body has been able to make positive contributions through the efforts of the individual members and the intensive research they carry within the organization. Through taking an active role in creating holistic professionals, CIPD has managed to contribute towards policies that can assist in developing the society (CIPD, 2007). For example, in consultation with the government, it has been able to contribute to public policies that have been vital towards development. All the members of CIPD are required to demonstrate a comprehensive and strong commitment towards Continuing Professional Development (CPD) (Megginson & Whitaker, 2007).

There are times when the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) takes on the form of an exchange program of the professionals from similar organizations. This has been popular in the medical field. In such cases, medical practitioners have been able to identify how things are done by other people see whether they are different or similar. This helped workers to recognize gaps which they were not able to fill in their areas of profession. As a result, the exchange program has assisted professionals in developing good practices in the medical field. For example, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) is one of the institutions in the United Kingdom that provides training and education to its workers, and ensures provision of quality standards of the medical practices among its trainees (AoMRC, 2015).  This program had a great impact on the quality of services offered by medical practitioners.

Although there are a lot of steps human resource departments in organizations can take towards ensuring the development of its workers, most of the efforts dealing with anticipation and changes depend on the attitude of the individual workers who are the major beneficiaries of the system (Giangreco, Sebastinao & Peccei, 2009).

Continuing professional development is a way to ensure that workers, leaders and managers conform to the modern authorized, healthy, and safe environmental standards (Paige, 2002). The progression is also used by the human resource development departments in order to plan and be prepared for any extra challenges that could come up in their future. Through CPD, workers will be proficient in evaluating their capabilities in handling the existing tasks and competent in exceptionally carrying out their duties in their current position.

From another insightful perspective, modern employers need workers to perform a high quality work in addition to enhancing public accountability. CPD can help them to keep the path of gaining new knowledge and skills related to their careers. It is therefore a significant process that not only shapes the quality of work performed by employees in an organization but also improves their accountability (Mulvaney, Zwahr & Baranowski, 2006).  

After completing experiential learning processes, employees are required to apply what they have learnt. This forms a great part of their experience. The perceptions of the individuals are altered during the learning process (Kolb, 1984). Through learning, negative substance gets out while positive substance gets in. This kind of altering of the attitudes and thoughts of a person will consequently lead to behavioral change in the workplace. Although, it is a personal decision of the individual to change their attitude for the better, most of the workers who are exposed to learning programs at the workplace or outside as a part of their professional development record high quality performances at their working stations (Paige, 2002).

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Traditional education system did not sufficiently equip people for their future professional roles. Success in the working environment is an interplay between the ability to use the existing knowledge and the flexibility in implementing new ideas (Garrett et. al., 2001).  There are a lot of changes people must be able to recognize since it can play a great role in either supporting or discouraging their success. These revolutionary issues must be handled carefully in order to achieve success in the working place.

One of the best plans in producing better healthcare in the United States is the introduction of clinical governance for corporate accountability. The greatest objective towards inculcating the CPD practice is to improve the quality services delivered to the clients. Human resource departments in healthcare systems have observed an improvement in service delivery of medical practitioners. However, it is contentious as to whether professionals do provide competent services after the CPD.  Organizations are usually guided by a code of ethics. However, CPD trains employees to be autonomous and respond uniquely to situations they are confronted with. This means that, instead of responding to the existing knowledge base which is guided by the code of ethics, they may end up developing their own standards. This can create a conflict in the organization. CPD can be a very effective program if it is carried out with careful scrutiny and with assessment of the needs of the specific organization. Effective control mechanisms should be involved in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

Through experiential learning, adults are able to improve their skills required at the workplace. The acquired skills, especially the ones taught by respective agencies, can in turn be applied in their daily practices. Kolb argues that learning that takes place in the working environment provides employees with a proactive spirit. He says that there is a direct relationship between thinking and experience. Thinking comes as a result of being exposed to extra learning sessions which can be provided by Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Programs. In a nutshell, experiential learning contributes to professional development – an important aspect of every human resource development program in any organization.


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