How to Use the Experiential Learning Model

The Experiential Learning Model, used extensively in 4-H and other groups, is a way to turn ordinary games into learning experiences, primarily with the use of questions. This educational model is a great way to subtly make the most out of a situation.


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    Do the activity with your group. Before you can use the Experiential Learning Model, you must have something to use it on. After you learn the rest of the steps to the Experiential Learning Model, you will know how to look for good activities to use the model on.
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    Reflect on the activity.
    • What? What happened in the activity? What were the results? Everyone in the group should share their observations on what was going on. Listen to all observations. Everyone deserves a chance to talk. What did each person do? What was the most difficult thing about this activity?
    • Gut. Ask the group what their gut reaction was. If someone was left out, how did they feel being left out? How did it feel to lead? You can link the experience to your target subject matter (if you have one) and the life skills being learned. What problems or issues seemed to occur over and over? How did you feel when a particular thing happened?
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    Apply the activity to other experiences.
    • So what? So what happened? How do we apply this to the situation at hand? Generalize the event to connect it to real-world examples. What did you learn about yourself through this activity? What did you learn about making decisions? How does this activity relate to real life outside of the activity? How did you go about deciding what to do?
    • Now what? How can you apply what you've learned to a similar or different experience? What is another situation in which this skill can be used? How will the issues raised by this activity be useful in the future? How will you act differently in the future as a result of this activity?


  • Remember what, gut, so what, and now what. This sticks well in the mind of youth and covers the basic steps after the activity is done.
  • You may want to have everyone sit for all steps after Do. This will help them focus. Sitting in a circle is also a good way to help the group share openly, and ensures everyone can hear and make eye contact.
  • Think of questions ahead of time, but leave room for questions that may arise from unexpected things that happen.
  • You can apply the Experiential Learning Model to things other than games.
  • Modify as necessary.


  • Choose activities appropriate for your group's age and size, and choose an area accordingly.

Things You'll Need

  • Group of people, any age
  • Suitable activity
  • Desire to learn

Article Info

Categories: Teacher Resources