Experiential Learning Theory

A Dynamic, Holistic Approach to Management Learning, Education and Development

Experiential learning theory (ELT) has been widely used in management learning research and practice for over thirty-five years. Building on the foundational works of Kurt Lewin, John Dewey and others, experiential learning theory offers a dynamic theory based on a learning cycle driven by the resolution of the dual dialectics of action/reflection and experience/abstraction. These two dimensions define a holistic learning space wherein learning transactions take place between individuals and the environment. The learning space is multi-level and can describe learning and development in commensurate ways at the level of the individual, the group, and the organization. This approach is illustrated by reviewing current research on individual learning styles and managerial problem solving/decision making, the process of team learning and organizational learning. We describe how ELT can serve as a useful framework to design and implement management education programs in higher education and management training and development.