In the education field such as youth exchange, training courses, or youth center, facilitation is used with non-formal education. The non-formal education refers to planned, structured programs and processes of personal and social education for young people designed for a range of skills and competences, outside the formal educational approach: in a classical classroom. Generally, the non-formal education approach focuses on learning by doing and likely refers to an experiential learning cycle.
The Experiential Learning cycle was created by an American educational theorist, David Allen Kolb. Kolb defined learning as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience”. This learning experience consists of four stages:
Concrete Experience (CE): Doing or having an experience.
Kolb’s learning process cycle begins with a concrete experience. It means that each learner engages in an activity. Kolb believed that the key to learning is involvement which is not enough for learners to merely read or watch it in action. To effectively acquire new knowledge, learners must actively engage in the task.
Reflective Observation (RO): Reviewing or reflecting on experience.
After engaging in the concrete experience, the learner steps back to reflect on what happened. This stage allows the learner to ask questions and discuss the experience with others. Communication at this stage is vital, as it allows the learner to identify any similarities and differences between their understanding and the experience itself.
Abstract Conceptualization (AC): Concluding or learning from the experience
In this step the learner attempts to draw conclusions of the experience by reflecting on their prior knowledge, using their ideas, or discussing possible theories with others. The learner moves from reflective observation to abstract conceptualization when they begin to classify concepts and form conclusions on the events that occurred. This involves interpreting the experience and making comparisons to their current understanding of the concept.
Active Experimentation (AE): Planing or trying out what was learned
Learners return to participating in a task, this time with the goal of applying their conclusions to new experiences. They can make predictions, analyze tasks, and make plans for the acquired knowledge in the future. By allowing learners to put their knowledge into practice and showing how it is relevant to their lives, you are ensuring that the information is retained in the future.
As Kolb’s learning theory is cyclical, one can enter the process at any stage in the cycle. However, the cycle should then be completed to ensure effective outcomes. Each stage is dependent on the others, and all must be completed to develop new knowledge.
Although the stages work together to create a learning process. Different individuals may prefer some stages over others. Because of this, Roger Fry worked with Kolb to identify four unique learning styles:
Diverging (concrete experience/reflective observation)
Learners in this style value feelings and take an interest in others. They usually enjoy working as a team, thus tasks such as brainstorming ideas and working collaboratively in groups are their preference. This learning style prefers clear instruction and opportunity to explore and be creative.
Assimilating (abstract conceptualization/reflective observation)
This learning style emphasizes reasoning. Learners who show this learning style are able to review the facts and assess the experience as a whole. They have a great observant skill and tend to enjoy designing experiments and working on projects from start to completion. Unlike the previous learning style, this learning style needs an exercise that they can freely complete without an instructor, if needed, private instruction is preferable to this style.
Converging (abstract conceptualization/active experimentation)
This learning style prefers problem solving as an approach to learning. They are able to make decisions and apply their ideas to new experiences. Normally, they tend to avoid people and perceptions, but rather find technical solutions.
Accommodating (concrete experience/active experimentation)
This learning style is adaptable and intuitive. Learners use trial and error to guide their experiences, preferring to discover the answers for themselves. They can adjust their path based on the circumstance and generally have good people skills.
As a facilitator in the educational field, having a knowledge of the experiential learning and learning styles will help in planning sessions and adjusting approaches during a session so that it serves a group dynamic.