Phil Race

Professor Phil Race offers an alternative experiential learning model. There are four processes and rather than progressing through a cycle, they interact with one another like ripples in a pond. If there is a starting point it is "wanting" to learn.


Although we do learn without wanting to, for example phobias are learnt behaviour, effective learning usually requires motivation and the desire to learn.


Experiential learning is all about learning by doing. Therefore if you are to learn effectively then you need to actually do something, ride a bike, switch on a computer, whatever it is that you are hoping to learn.

There is an old joke about a concert goer struggling to find the venue for a classical gig. he notices a musician hurrying along carrying a violin case. "Excuse me" he asks "Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?" "Practice" mutters the musician.

Perhaps doing is just another word for practice.


Someone once noted that practice doesn't make perfect. It makes permanent. Does practice make perfect? Suppose you practice the wrong thing! Doing the same thing over and over again without thinking about what you are doing does not guarantee that you will learn how to do it better. There is one thing that repetition of a thought increases the probability of ... REPETITION!

Effective learning needs time for reflection and thinking. People who are good at learning ask themselves questions like: "How did that go?" "What worked" "What didn't" "How could I do that better next time?"

Digesting like the physiological process requires quiet relaxed time. You wouldn't digest a heavy meal by rushing around. Perhaps you need to think about learning in the same way.


Integral to effective learning is feedback. We all like to know how well we are doing. Research indicates that one of the most enjoyable aspects of learning is getting feedback from friends and colleagues.

There are two types of feedback: intrinsic and extrinsic.

  1. Intrinsic feedback is feedback from within. What did you notice about the learning experience? Why did the car stall? Why did you fall off your bike?
  2. Extrinsic feedback is feedback from others. Ideas from colleagues, lecturers, bosses. The evidence suggests that effective learning requires both intrinsic and extrinsic feedback.

Using Race's Experiential Learning Model in Training


Ultimately all motivation comes from within. Therefore to motivate learners you have to help them remember what is that motivates them. To do this you use ice-breakers that ask them to identify:

  • why they have attended the session
  • what they hope to gain from the session

Make sure you emphasis the benefits and outcomes for the training.


As effective learning requires an element of action make sure you give your participants something to do. A well structured training session ought to have times when learners can actively engage in activities such as:

  • discussion
  • brainstorming
  • applying learning to the workplace


Effective training needs to include downtime. Don't bombard your learners with non-stop stream of action. Give them review times and thinking times. With many learners this can be a hard thing to do. Culturally we are not used to a lot of self reflection. Often the best way to get learners to digest is to encourage them to action plan and prepare for using the ideas in the workplace or personal life.


As a trainer you are in a unique position. You are perceived as a reliable witness, an expert, in the area you are training in. Your feedback is therefore a valued commodity. Whenever you are giving feedback in a training session try to use the following pattern:

  • first the learner themselves
  • then any peers
  • only then after other two groups have given feedback should you offer yours.

Further reading

Prof Phil Race [external link]


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