Back to School: The Value of Experiential Learning

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Experiential Learning

For centuries, formal education has been administered through a classroom format. Even today by the time children enter university or even high school, they have already been “sentenced” to hours upon hours of classroom content with little exposure to actual practice. 

Last week I was on BizTalkRadio’s Frankie Boyer Show ( and Frankie asked me why higher education is veering away from experiential learning when it used to be more commonplace. Could it be because higher ed in the USA has become such a business that there is possibly a conscious effort to keep students in academia for longer? More college graduates seem to feel unprepared to enter the real world which causes them to enroll in further, or dare I say “perpetual” education (often deepening their student debt). 

A shift is needed from lecture-based methods to experiential learning in order to prepare students for the world in which we live.  Now it’s “back to school,” and it’s an appropriate time to look at increasing experiential learning in our education system.

Recent studies (probably by career academics!) strongly support the notion that learning through experience should be a vital part of the learning experience.  Due to the greater demands of today’s world and the increased speed of change, experiential learning is essential to the success of students today and we must prepare them for the world by engaging with it now.

Ancient Chinese proverb: I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.” 

As a musician and speaker, I’m not so sure I like the “I hear and I forget” part, but I do agree that multisensory interaction (with a person, place, or concept) creates a stronger connection.

A not-so-ancient “Ravi-ism” goes like this: “Someone taught me trigonometry in school but I learned it in the cockpit of an airplane…and didn’t even know it was trigonometry.” And, I often tell my audiences that being the guitarist of Hanson was attending the “Harvard Business School of Rock and Roll.”

Learning by Doing: ELT

The creator of Experiential Learning Theory (ELT), David Kolb, defined the “process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience." Kolb further pointed out that an effective learner is a person who thinks, feels, perceives, and then behaves.  Real experiences expose students to the potential for exercising all their senses in a far greater measure than a typical classroom experience.

Today, many university graduates complete their degrees with very limited direct contact with the practices they have studied (to Frankie’s point above). Moreover, millions of students head back for post-graduate work without having had any real-life experience in their field of study and knowing that they are ill-prepared, yet they go back to the same methods that failed them.

Academic Study Results Support Experiential Learning

One study reported in the April-June 2019 edition of the Science Direct Journal of Innovation & Knowledge reviews a recent project conducted at a Spanish Business School. The program was designed to draw a link between students’ experienced-based learnings and their ultimate academic outcomes. The students involved in the project were working on their Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.

Some experienced actual hands-on activities with active immersion and involvement plus managerial simulations designed to sharpen their competencies. Students in the Management Skills class worked with middle and top management professionals to assess competencies, gain deeper insights, and reach a better understanding of the skills required in a managerial profession. These individuals obtained essential knowledge by direct observation and conducting interviews with their manager-partner. The results suggest that those participating in experiential learning scored significantly higher in their final class projects and examinations than those only receiving in-class lectures.

Why is Experiential Learning Important to the Future of Learning?

One important reason why hands-on experience and outside exposure to real-life operations are important is that new-hires can “hit the ground running.” Orientation and transition time to adapt to “real life” circumstances are reduced--a significant benefit to any company.  While this should also help employee retention, it will surely facilitate the process of recruiting.

Other benefits, as noted by eLearning Industry, include:

  • Student learning accelerates
  • Real-life simulations provide a “safe” learning experience. Learners can make mistakes without repercussions.
  • Bridges the gap between lectures and actual practice
  • Creates mindset changes
  • Increases engagement
  • Delivers a more potent return on the student’s investment in education
  • Assessment results are both more accurate and less subjective
  • Learning is more personalized when it is hands-on rather than as a crowd-directed lecture.

Real-life working experiences as a student also develops “soft skills” by learning to manage stress and resolve conflict, making a more efficient and desirable employee.  I discussed this in my post on cultural competence in the workplace

What Next?

Integrating experiential learning into the education process even at the primary school level can be a tremendous benefit to the educational process, as it develops the skill of life-long learning.  Parents should also take a more active role in their children’s education (such as doing daily homework with them), because they can then discuss and encourage the implementation of more experiential learning opportunities with educators.  Family engagement is key.


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Ravi Unites Schools Update

Chile & India: On August 29th, Ravi Unites Schools will host an interaction between high school students of The Mackay School in Valparaiso, Chile and a school in the United State which will be selected today.  I will host that alongside the students from Chile, where I am now. Then, on September 4th, I will host another between high school students at Shanti Bhavan in Tamil Nadu, India and Aurora High School in Aurora Ohio USA.  We are currently setting up more interactions, and perhaps very soon, as I will be in India and hope to host one live from there.

Latest News & Updates

New iHeart Media, SiriusXM Radio Shows...and a few awesome podcasts:

Check out the latest shows and podcasts at  In addition to some great mainstream radio interviews, I’ve been interviewed by some very good podcasts that will be available soon including “Fortunes from Speaking with Chris Widener,” Mari Ryan’s “Workplace Well-being Expert Interview Series,” and “Intelligence for Your Life” by the legendary John Tesh.

"Songwriting Safari" in Chile

Do not miss this opportunity!  A “Songwriting Safari” in Chile
February 21-March 1, 2020.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to collaborate with songwriters from multiple cultures and backgrounds under the guidance of Ravi Hutheesing, former member of three-time Grammy Award nominee, Hanson.  You will write at least three songs with hands-on instruction from Ravi and his award-winning songwriting teaching method, 1-2-3 Songwriting, as well as learn from carefully selected well-known guest instructors.  By participating in this unique ten-day workshop, you will create timeless songs, build global friendships and memorable artistic collaborations, and discover how you can use your talents to change the world.

Learn more here: Songwriting Safari in Chile 2020

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