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date: 29 February 2024

Experiential Learning and Education in Managementfree

Experiential Learning and Education in Managementfree

  • D. Christopher KayesD. Christopher KayesSchool of Business, George Washington University
  •  and Anna B. KayesAnna B. KayesBusiness Administration, Stevenson University


Experiential learning describes the process of learning that results from gathering and processing information through direct engagement with the world. In contrast to behavioral approaches to learning, which describe learning as behavioral changes that result from the influence of external factors such as rewards and punishments, learning from experience places the learner at the center of the learning process. Experiential learning has conceptual roots in John Dewey’s pragmatism. One of the most influential approaches to experiential learning in management and management education is David Kolb’s experiential learning theory (ELT) and the learning cycle that describes learning as a four-phase process of direct experience, reflection, abstract thinking, and experimentation.

Experiential learning has been influential in management education as well as adult education because it addresses a number of concerns with traditional education and emphasizes the role of the learner in the learning process. It has been adopted by over 30 disciplines across higher education and has been extensively applied to management, organizations, and leadership development. The popularity of the experiential learning approach is due to many factors, including the growing discontent with traditional education, the desire to create more inclusive and active learning environments, and a recognition of the role that individual differences plays in learning. A renewed interest in experiential learning has brought about new and expanded conceptualizations of what it means to learn from experience. Variations on experiential learning include critical approaches to learning, brain science, and dual-processing approaches.

While the term “experiential learning” is used by scholars to describe a specific philosophy or theory of learning, it often refers to many management education activities, including the use of experiences outside the classroom such as study abroad, internships, and service learning. Experiential learning also includes educational “experiential” learning activities inside the classroom. Within organizations, experiential learning provides an underlying conceptual framework for popular learning and leadership development programs such as emotional intelligence, strengths-based approaches, and appreciative inquiry.

There is a growing recognition that experiential learning is the basis for many management practices such as strategy creation, research and development, and decision-making. Applications of experiential learning and education in management include simulations and exercises, learning style and educator roles, learning as a source of resilience, learning attitudes and other learning-based experiences, learning flexibility, cross-cultural factors, and team learning.

Emerging research interest is also found in the relationship between experiential learning and expertise, intuition, mastery, and professional and career development, decision-making, and judgment in organizations.


  • Business Education
  • Human Resource Management
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Problem Solving and Creativity

Introduction to Experiential Learning and Education in Management

An overview of experiential learning theory (ELT) and related concepts demonstrates the broad influence of experiential learning to management, management education, and workplace learning. Experiential learning and education can take many forms and specific applications include action learning, problem-based learning, and team-based learning (Wurdinger & Carlson, 2010). While there are multiple streams and agendas that fall under the term “experiential learning,” Kolb’s (1984, 2014) ELT provides an organizing framework because it is widely cited in the management educational literature and has been highly influential in practice. Further, as an integrative approach to learning, Kolb’s theory integrates assumptions across different approaches to learning.

Experiential learning has had a significant influence on management education and learning; its influence has reached beyond the areas of education and learning to include management and organizational and human resource management practices.

Theory and Concepts

What Is Experiential Learning and Experiential Education?

Experiential learning is the process of learning through direct experience. Experiential learning in management refers to both a theory of learning as well as activities associated with learning from experience. Experiential learning focuses on the process of learning rather than specific outcomes. In the context of management, experiential learning has been adopted to describe how managers learn on the job and develop personally and professionally. In addition, it describes how managers, leaders, and other members of organizations draw on their direct experience as a source of knowledge that facilitates the goals of the organization.

Experiential learning has been highly influential in management and adult education, having been adopted in the teaching of over 30 academic disciplines. This growing influence is due to many factors, including:

a growing discontent with traditional education methods that include lectures, memorization, declarative knowledge, and standardized testing (Pfeffer & Fong, 2002);

the desire to create a more inclusive learning environment (Ely, Ibarra, & Kolb, 2011);

a recognition of the role that individual differences and culture plays in learning (Han, Seok, & Kim, 2017; Holtbrugge & Mohr, 2010);

the ability of experiential learning theory to address important challenges that organizations face in terms of learning, leadership development, organizational and individual change, and improving diversity and inclusion (e.g., Ng, Van Dyne, & Ang, 2009);

an integrated approach to learning that recognizes a multidisciplinary understanding of how people learn (e.g., Hoover, Giambatista, Sorenson, & Boomer, 2010); and

the need for a learning theory that addresses both the practical and the theoretical needs of adult learning (Ghoshal, 2005).

The Contributions of Kolb’s Theory

David Kolb’s theory is one of the most widely cited and applied approaches to experiential learning.1

A Description of Kolb’s Theory of Experiential Learning

Kolb’s experiential learning theory describes learning as a process of engaging with the world through different learning processes or modes. He defines learning as the process of transforming knowledge through experience. Learning involves two modes of knowledge transformation: a gathering mode and a processing mode. In turn, the gathering mode includes two subprocesses: gathering new information through the use of senses, which is called learning through concrete experience, and gathering new information through the use of abstract concepts, which is called learning through abstract conceptualization. The knowledge processing mode includes two subprocesses: processing information through reflection, which is called learning through reflective observation, or processing information through action, which is called learning through active experimentation. Taken together, these subactivities describe learning as a fourfold process:


Concrete experience: use of senses through direct experience;


Reflective observation: reflection on that experience;


Abstract conceptualization: conceptualizing the experience in the context of prior knowledge; and


Active experimentation: taking action on the experience by considering the action in the real world.

These four learning processes constitute a learning cycle.2 The four-phase cycle involves concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. Kolb and Kolb (2005) have expanded the model to include a total of nine learning processes: experiencing, imagining, reflecting, analyzing, thinking, deciding, acting, initiating, and balancing. Figure 1 depicts the four-phase cycle of experiential learning as it applies to learning in management.

Figure 1. The four-phase experiential learning cycle.

Theoretical Roots of the Kolb Model

Kolb’s ELT traces its conceptual roots to the pragmatic philosophical tradition, most notably John Dewey’s (1938/1998) book Experience and Education. For Dewey, life is experienced as a continuous flow of events. However, this sense of continuity becomes disrupted by a particular event or series of events or episodes that force learners to consider their experience more deliberately. Continuity is interrupted when a learner becomes either “struck” or “stuck.” The learner is struck when something shocking or dramatic occurs that forces the learner to further consider her experiences. Learners become stuck as they are no longer able to make progress or solve a problem. The opportunity for learning arises when learners reflect on these experiential events or episodes.

Psychologist William James (1912/1976), from the pragmatic tradition, has also had a key influence on experiential learning. James’s notion of “radical empiricism” emphasizes the inductive process of learning. As an inductive process, learning begins with experience. The experience then forms the basis of more generalized assumptions as people’s unique experiences are put into the context of abstract concepts. While experiential learning can be traced to Dewey and James, Kolb builds on these philosophical traditions by integrating other learning theories, including those of social psychologist and management scholar Kurt Lewin (1951), child psychologist Jean Piaget (1968), and developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1930/1978).

Ultimately, Kolb’s theory of experiential learning is an integrative approach that combines different assumptions about how people learn into a holistic framework of learning. Each of the four phases of learning is tied to a set of learning processes. For example, the process of experience is based on the role of sensory perceptions, while the process of reflection is influenced by an approach to learning that is based on self-awareness and self-knowledge, especially in the context of social, economic, and political factors. The process of abstract thinking is influenced by cognitive approaches to learning while the process of active experimentation is influenced by behaviorist approaches. Despite the broad influences of diverse learning theories, Kolb moves beyond theoretical integration to offer a unique perspective on what it means to learn. The theory is not simply a reconfiguration of existing theories, but the integration of theories results in a new description of how people learn from experience.

Highlights of Kolb’s Theory

Kolb’s approach to experiential learning brings several unique considerations to management learning, including a description of the inherent tension of learning, an appreciation for the interaction between the person and the environment, and an optimistic and person-centered approach to learning.

First, Kolb’s approach describes the inherent tension between different modes or processes of learning. Learning is thus a tension-filled process of choosing between different modes of learning. Learning requires the learner to resolve these tensions when processing information. For example, a manager may need to make a decision and, in so doing, experiences a tension between using direct experience or abstract concepts. Direct experience would be more closely linked with a “gut” feeling or intuition, while abstract concepts may rely more on data. In other cases, a manager may experience a tension between reflection and action. Reflection would require gathering more information, gathering new opinions and input, and considering alternative options. Action requires timely action and seeing the results rather than taking time to gather additional data.

Second, experiential learning emphasizes an interaction between the person and the environment. Kurt Lewin’s (1951) description of behavior as the interaction of person and environment takes on relevance here. As an interaction, learning is a transaction between the individual learners and the social and physical world around them. Using their sensory perceptions (experiences) and prior knowledge (abstract concepts gathered over time), managers test their assumptions and actions in practice. Thus, there is a constant interaction between various emotional and cognitive processes and social and environmental processes.

Third, experiential learning offers an inherent optimism about the human potential to learn. The individual is placed at the center of the learning process, and experiential learning is often considered a “learner-centered approach” because it is focused on understanding the needs, desires, goals, ambitions, and so on, of the individual as the basis for learning. This inherent desire to learn can be the source of motivation and progress for individual learners. In this way, experiential learning emphasizes the potential of individuals and thus is a humanist approach to learning because of its optimism about the inherent potential of people to learn and grow under the right conditions.

Variations and Developments of Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory

Several variations of Kolb’s formulation of experiential learning have emerged, expanding understanding of what it means for managers to learn from experience. Three of these approaches are explored: critical approaches, brain and mind approaches, and dual processing approaches.

Critical Approaches

Critical approaches to experiential learning carry multiple agendas but generally focus on two concerns: (a) power relations and their impact on learning, and (b) the role of internal psychological states, including emotions, psychological defense mechanisms, and social, political, and economic assumptions that may influence how people learn.

In the critical approach, the learner’s experience with anxiety is central to learning. Anxiety is an inevitable part of learning, according to this perspective, because learning takes the learner into a place of discomfort. Learning thus is like moving into unchartered waters. Vince (1998), for example, emphasized how the ambiguity and uncertainty that emerge in times of learning and change can block learning. Anxiety results from ambiguity, but as the learners overcome the anxiety, they develop the capacity to learn. When learners cannot effectively deal with the anxiety, they become stifled in their learning and are likely to repeat the experience without learning. In order for learning from experiences to occur, managers need to understand their own tolerance and ability to deal with ambiguity. Despite their anxiety, they need to learn to take action. The key to learning is not to release the anxiety, but rather to recognize and address the source of the anxiety.

In addition to the focus on anxiety and ambiguity, critical approaches to experiential learning are interested in the politics and power that can block learning. The emphasis is on how learners perceive and conceive experience. What is recognized as important learning experiences is shaped by power relations within and around the learning process. Reynolds (2009) provides an insight into how critical approaches to experiential learning can have an even greater emphasis on the practice and teaching of management and the related area of leadership.

He writes:

An experience-based approach provides managers and “leaders” with the opportunity to develop an understanding based on their professional experience, reflecting on the social and political process of leadership and on the different ways that working definitions of leadership evolve in different contexts. It offers possibilities of learning through making sense of past situations or by examining current experience via here-and-now activities designed for that purpose and which provide the opportunity to learn in real time about the social and political processes of leadership and the different ways it is constructed, negotiated, and experienced. (p. 391)

Brain and Mind Approaches

In addition to critical perspectives on experiential learning, brain science offers a promising approach to improve learning. The approach looks at how microprocesses within the brain contribute to learning. For example, brain science provides details on how short-term memory differs from long-term memory and how different facets of the brain respond to new stimuli from the environment.

Zull’s (2002, 2011) review of brain and mind research through the lens of experiential learning offers insights into how brain and mind research can enhance the understanding of experiential learning. Zull sees “a natural connection between brain structure and learning” (p. 14) and makes a direct connection between the experiential learning cycle and the brain. This draws important connections between experiential learning and the key executive functions of the brain associated with managing (see Chan, Wang, & Ybarra, 2018).

The connections between brain functions and phases of the experiential learning cycle are of particular note. The role of the brain cortex is primarily threefold: sensing, integrating, and acting. Sensing involves direct experience as a sensory function through seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, and hearing. The sensory information is then sent to various integrative regions throughout the brain, including the frontal integrative cortex, (e.g., prefrontal cortex) and the sensory and postsensory integrative cortex. The integrative cortex describes a set of processes associated with making meaning from sensory information and how that meaning is stored and accessed in long-term memory. Meaning making is a complex process that involves placing sensory information into language and images. From language and images, the brain creates meaningful patterns, ideas, and thoughts. These patterns, ideas, and thoughts are then organized into plans of action in the motor cortex. Zull’s description connects the mind’s functions to the four processes of experiential learning:

Concrete experience involves gathering knowledge through sensory input through the sensory cortex.

Reflective observation involves making associations with past experiences, mental “reruns” of experiences, and selective editing of experiences.

Reflective observation combined with abstract conceptualization place the sensory information into patterns through the integrative cortexes.

Finally, active experimentation involves the integrative motor cortex in concert with the prefrontal cortex, which directs future action plans.3 Zull also points to additional ways that mind science connects to experiential learning. Brain research has demonstrated that the entire learning process can unfold in a period of microseconds or it can unfold over a period of days, months, and years. Also, brain research confirms that learning does not always go through an orderly cycle as described by the fourfold process of learning, but that learning does require a complete cycle. Brain connections are not one-way interactions and learning can occur in different patterns, not necessarily in the order offered by experiential learning.

Dual Processing Approaches

Future research on the mind may provide insight into processes that shape experience such as the role of long-term memory and the “hidden mind,” the preconscious processes that shape decision-making, guide action, constitute intuition, and shape learning and development. Kayes (2002) offered a dual processing approach to learning that describes two simultaneous processes of learning: a conscious process within the awareness of the individual, and a “hidden” or preconscious approach (see Miner, 2015 for an application in organizations).

Drawing on a theory proposed by neo-Freudian psychologist Jacque Lacan, Kayes demonstrates that experiential learning had built-in assumptions of these two processes within the learning cycle. He argued that the experiential learning cycle involves tacit (intrapersonal) processes of learning as well as explicit (interpersonal) processes of learning. The learning cycle represents a natural interaction between interpersonal and intrapersonal knowing. To further support this connection, Kayes references the initial assumption of experiential learning as an interaction between the person and the environment. A dual process theory of experiential learning considers more overtly the dual conscious and preconscious processes associated with learning by embracing self-awareness as a key to learning from experience.

Applications to Management Education

This section outlines some of the ways that experiential learning and the learning cycle have been applied to management. While the term experiential learning is used by scholars to describe a specific philosophy or theory of learning, it is also used to refer to many management and management education activities. Learning is no longer considered a secondary process for management success but is seen as the primary activity of managers. This section examines the diversity of ways that experiential learning has been applied in management and emphasizes key contributions, including applications to learning simulations and exercises, a focus on how learning plays a more central role in management practice as it applies to areas such as cross-cultural adaptation, resilience, and teams.

As managers increasingly face changing and complex situations, learning becomes a key tool for navigating these changes and complexities. Learning plays an important role beyond traditional training and education, but also serves as a core function of management (Dixon, 2017). Experiential learning and the learning cycle have been described as essential for key organizational processes such as problem-solving, project management, scenario planning (Van der Heijden, 2002), strategic planning, research and development, after-action reviews, organizational culture (Thomas, Sugiyama, Rochford, Stephens, & Kanov, 2018), and cross-cultural adaptation of executives (Yamazki & Kayes, 2007).

Experiential learning has also been connected to the development of expertise (Ericsson, Charness, Feltovich, & Hoffman, 2006), intuition (see, e.g., Kahneman & Klein, 2009; Klein, 1999, 2008), mastery (Bloom, 1971), and professional and career development (see Berlew & Hall, 1966). Within organizations, experiential learning provides an underlying conceptual framework to understanding popular learning and leadership development programs such as emotional intelligence, strengths-based approaches, and appreciative inquiry.

Experiential learning and the learning cycle have been applied to a variety of management education processes, programs, and exercises. Peer-reviewed journals such as Simulation and Gaming, Journal of Management Education, Management Teaching Review, and Journal of Experiential Education provide an extensive source of exercises, simulations, and other materials for developing and implementing experiential activities. The Academy of Management Learning and Education and Management Learning are additional journals that seek to provide academic inquiry into management learning, including experiential learning. Experiential learning exercises can be found in books such as The handbook of experiential learning and management education (Reynolds & Vince, 2007).

Simulations and Exercises

Experiential learning and education have been implemented in organizations and in higher education through simulations and exercises. The application of experiential learning to in-class exercises and simulations encourages the creation of common experiences among participants in a classroom. These interactions, then, serve as the basis for future learning. These activities may include role plays, participating in improvisation, watching a movie clip, engaging in an activity, or reading a case study. Participants would then share their reaction to the learning experience and discuss how it may or may not impact their day-to-day workplace or life. In many of these exercises, the experiences are then tied to course concepts or key learning points. For example, the participants may watch a clip from a television show that demonstrates conflict, and participants would explain how the course concepts associated with conflict and conflict resolution may be utilized in various situations they have encountered. In this way, participants are asked to apply what they learned from this situation to future actions they may take. One approach that seeks to recreate a natural setting is the integration of theater techniques and theater professionals into the management classroom, which creates a rich context to generate and reflect on experiences (Clark & Kayes, 2019).

Experiential learning can also occur outside of formal classrooms. For example, outdoor leadership training, field trips, and outdoor “team-building” exercises such as ropes courses are often based on the notion that these activities create experiences that form the basis for learning. Experiential learning also applies to aspects of activities beyond formal instruction, including internships, study abroad, and service-learning activities.

Learning Style and Educator Roles

Learning style and educator roles provide another application of experiential learning. Learning style describes the preferences of individuals to use certain modes of learning over others. For example, an individual may express a preference for direct experience, reflection, abstract conceptualization, active experimentation, or a combination of these processes. Learning style is influenced by a variety of factors, including personality, education, life stage, the nature of problems being addressed, and career. Learning style remains a promising way to understand learning preferences (see, e.g., Holtbrugge & Mohr, 2010; Li, Mobley, & Kelly, 2013) and how individuals, teams, and organizations engage in the learning cycle. While there are many different approaches to learning and learning style, including different frameworks and measurements, Kolb’s learning style inventory is arguably one of the most widely used models. The original learning style inventory is based on four learning styles:

the creating style (a combination of concrete experience and reflective observation);

the planning style (a combination of reflective observation and abstract conceptualization);

the deciding style (a combination of abstract conceptualization and active experimentation); and

the acting style (a combination of active experimentation and concrete experience).

A more recent configuration of this model includes nine learning styles based on the revised nine learning modes.

There is a growing interest in the role played by the educator in learning from experience. Because experiential learning is a learner-centric approach, the role of the educator, trainer, teacher, facilitator, or coach was often de-emphasized, placing the learner instead in the center of the equation. The role of teacher or other educational professional in experiential learning was simply to cultivate learning in the individual through an eye on the learning process and the development of exercises, interventions, questions, and other activities.

A renewed interest in the role of the educator has resulted in a model of educator preferences as demonstrated through the educator role profile (ERP). The ERP outlines four roles or preferences that educators play relative to the learning cycle.

Educators can take on four different roles:

As a facilitator, the role of the educator is a nondirective approach that seeks to guide the learner rather than “tell” the learner.

The expert role is the more traditional one as the educator serves as a content specialist providing their expertise and knowledge.

The evaluator role is an expectation-setting role, where the educator sets standards and monitors the learner’s desired outcomes.

The coaching role involves the educator working closely with the learner, providing specific feedback and including the learner in the learning process (Kolb, Kolb, Passarelli, & Sharma, 2014).

Like learning style, educators, develop a preference for using one mode of educating over another. Educators can use the model to determine their own preferences for educating and then determine if they need to adapt or change based on the needs of the learner, the learning environment, and desired learning outcomes.

Importantly, the role of the educator is not to “style match,” which means match their teaching style to match the learning style of the learner. For example, if the learner’s style has a strong preference for “active experimentation,” then the educator should not try to simply use active learning in order to match the learning style. The goal of the educator is to try to enhance the learning capabilities of the learners by introducing them to a variety of learning processes. This would include active learning, but also finding ways to make concepts more accessible to the learner. The educator may use active learning as a way for the learner to enter the learning cycle but then would be advised to encourage the learner to utilize other modes of learning once the learner’s attention is captured through active learning.

Learning as a Source of Resilience

Another consideration for experiential learning in management is how learning serves as a source of resilience for organizations. Kayes (2015) argues organizations are more resilient when they adopt learning practices and create a culture that values learning (Kayes, Allen, & Self, 2017). Experiential learning activities can advance organizational resilience including: establishing a culture of learning, surfacing and responding to errors, sustained learning, and organizational renewal. The role of the manager is to value learning and promote learning from experience. This is accomplished not only by valuing learning, but also by building a learning culture and introducing learning activities that become institutionalized in the organization. Thus, the organization’s learning values are built through policies, procedures, and practices that support learning. These are summarized in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Taxonomy of experiential learning activities in organizations.

Drawing on several case studies of organizational disaster and crisis, Kayes (2015) shows that many disasters occur due to a breakdown of learning. When organizations engage in learning, they build resilience. For example, in the Air France flight 447 disaster, the pilots misdiagnosed a faulty instrument reading. In response, one of the pilots failed to execute the correct maneuver. The pilot turned to this incorrect maneuver because the pilot had not learned, or had not remembered learning, or had not practiced flying the airplane in manual mode. The pilot executed the wrong maneuver in part because he had never experienced this critical situation before. Adding to the situation was pilot stress caused by the aircraft sounding an alarm that engaged when the computer disengaged autopilot. The ensuing repeated warning that rang in the cockpit created stress that limited the pilot’s ability to learn (e.g., diagnose and respond) in the face of the situation at hand (Kayes, 2015; Kayes & Yoon, 2016).

Attitudes and Learning-Related Experiences

Another area of interest is how attitudes, the underlying thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors about learning, can influence learning. The connection between experiential learning and the nature of those experiences that may support or facilitate learning has yet to be fully articulated.

Research on learning attitudes offers insights into what types of experiences enhance learning. By cultivating these attitudes, individuals can enhance their learning in a variety of ways and overcome the frustration associated with slow progress and new projects (Dweck, 2013). Learning attitudes can be thought of as experiences that facilitate or enhance learning or as learning-related experiences, suggesting that the experience of learning is an important area for future study (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997). Learning is affected by the nature of human experiences, and certain kinds of experiences are most likely to facilitate learning (Vygotsky & Cole, 1978).

Kayes and Yoon (2020) point to key attitudes that support learning. These include positive emotional engagement, creative problem-solving, learning identity, social support, flexibility, focus, and progress toward learning. Cultivating these attitudes can lead to positive benefits, including overcoming new challenges, improving progress toward desired outcomes, making periods of perceived lack of progress more productive, improving learning, overcoming periods of frustration, and facing change with an open mind. Learning attitudes are summarized in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Attitudes that facilitate learning.

Two learning attitudes in particular are primed for further research. First, learning flexibility is defined by how easily an individual can “flex” from one mode of learning to another. For example, how easily can individuals move from reflection to action or how easily can they adapt when a situation requires abstract conceptualization but their primary preference is for direct experience (Trinh, 2019)? Initially, research on the topic of flexibility focused on adaptability specifically within the model of experiential learning (Boyatzis, Mainemelis, & Kolb, 2002), with more recent emphasis on general flexibility to learn across different modes of the learning cycle. Second, learning identity is the degree to which someone feels that she is capable of learning and growth. Learning identity reflects an attitude of confidence that learning is possible, as in one’s potential to learn.

Cross-Cultural Factors

In addition to individual and organizational factors, national culture is a consideration in the application of experiential learning. Cross-cultural differences in learning and learning style have been studied. For example, research has shown important connections between learning style and culture, as Yamazaki and Kayes (2004) identified patterns of how learning styles differ across cultures, how employees adapt to working in new cultures, and in some cases, employees working in a new environment adapt their learning style to the dominant style of the host culture (Kayes, Kayes, & Yamazaki, 2005a; Kayes, Kayes, & Yamazaki, 2005b). They hypothesized a taxonomy of cross-cultural competencies: valuing people of different cultures, listening and observing, coping with ambiguity, transforming complex information, taking action and initiative, managing others, and building relationships. Two additional competencies were developmental: managing stress and adaptive flexibility.

Team Learning

With the widespread use of teams in organizations, a particular area of interest in experiential learning is its application to teams. The focus is on how individual learning can contribute to a team’s success. The individual learner contributes to the team through their own increased learning about themselves, their team members, and the desired outcomes and processes of the team. Kayes, Kayes, and Kolb (2005) build on Mills’ (1967) research to describe several considerations for application of experiential learning to teams, including the following:

Learning is a process of reflecting among team members. This reflection takes place in a conversational space and involves a high degree of psychological safety (see Edmondson, 1999).

The team members develop specialized roles and functions that help them function as a team toward achieving desired outcomes.

The team shifts from a group of individual members to members of a team working toward specific outcomes. The learning cycle comes into play as the process by which teams develop.

Key factors that facilitate or inhibit this progress of the group through this transformation are learning style of team members and the team’s overall learning profile, how the team progresses through the learning cycle, and how a team navigates getting “stuck” in certain phases of learning.

Connections to Experiential-Based Decision-Making and Judgment

Another area of emerging interest is the intersection between experiential learning, judgment, decision-making, and intuition (Kayes & Kayes, in press). While there are many streams of research associated with these terms, experiential learning offers an integrating framework to understand how leaders and managers learn to make decisions, exercise judgment, and build long-term learning based on experience.


Experiential learning continues to have broad influence in management education and within organizations. Experiential learning provides an organizing framework within management education, and various approaches have emerged that consider what it means for managers to learn from experience. Experiential learning has moved beyond just influencing well-understood processes of learning toward influencing a variety of organizational processes. As part of the growing influence of experiential learning, important factors and emerging topics for research and application are reviewed.

Further Reading