What does experiential learning look like?

RECOFTC’s ‘experiential learning’ approach is based on the idea that people learn best through experience and reflection. Our approach to learning is issue based and collaborative and centers on action-based, hands-on methods.

 Here is one example of what this unique training approach looks like.

At the Leadership Camp for Sustainable Forests, 18 participants from forestry sectors across the Asia-Pacific gathered in Bann Huay Hin Lad Nai in Chiang Rai province from 2nd to 7th October 2016.

On the second day of the training, participants engaged in a session aimed at teaching why good communication is critical to effective leadership. By the end of the session, participants were able to indicate key features of effective communication in a cross-cultural setting and pinpoint how to communicate constructive feedback for improved team performance.

The activity, titled ‘Building the Bridge’, required the group break into three teams. Each team was provided with building materials (straws, paper cups, take, paper and scissors) and told to separately build a different part of a small bridge that would be joined together at the end of the activity.

Separated into different rooms, the teams had five minutes to discuss their initial strategy. Teams could not see or hear each other's building strategy. 

Next, each team sent one representative to a plenary discussion. The three team representatives discussed how each team would construct one portion of a small bridge out of the provided material. The three sections of the bridge would be fitted together at the end of the session and a toy car would attempt to make the journey across the bridge. If the toy car made the journey safely, the teams succeeded in effectively communicating with one another. 

For one minute the representatives discussed, then returned to their teams to communicate building instructions.

The twist? Different terminology is assigned to each group to refer to the different building material (i.e. ‘tazza’ means scissors for team 1, but ‘ke-ob’ means scissors for team 2). This highlights the linguistic and cultural barriers that often exist in real-world contexts. By requiring team representatives to only use assigned words to describe building material and tools, they are encouraged to use non-verbal communication skills and act as creative problem solvers.

After the initial meeting, each team had three minutes to work on constructing their portion of the bridge. Then each team sent a different representative to meet for a second discussion on the bridge construction. This continued until the teams collectively thought that they had successfully completed their assigned portion of the bridge.

They were then brought together to connect the bridge and test if the toy car could drive across it. 

As the toy car successfully drove across the bridge, participants celebrated.

The session demonstrates why effective communication is critical to the achievement of a common goal and how communication can transcend linguistic and cultural barriers.

Learn more about RECOFTC’s participatory learning approach here.