Experiential Learning and Its Critics

Preserving the Role of Experience in Management Learning and Education

This paper considers John Dewey’s dual reformist-preservationist agenda for education in the context of current debates about the role of experience in management learning. The paper argues for preserving experience-based approaches to management learning by revising the concept of experience to more clearly account for the relationship between personal and social (i.e. , tacit/explicit) knowledge. By reviewing, comparing and extending critiques of Kolb’s experiential learning theory and re- conceptualizing the learning process based on post-structural analysis of psychoanalyst Jacque Lacan, the paper defines experience within the context of language and social action. This perspective is contrasted to action, cognition, critical reflection and other experience-based approaches to management learning. Implications for management theory, pedagogy and practice suggest greater emphasis on language and conversation in the learning process. Future directions for research are explored.