Sunday, 24 May 2009

Conversation as Experiential Learning with NEET Learners

A PowerPoint presentation relating to this post can be viewed on Slide-Share.

Warm-up exercise
Look  at the diagram. Can you place the text in the correct order and can you name the theorist?
  • Forming abstract concepts
  • Concrete experience
  • Testing in new situations
  • Observation and reflection

The following is taken from Chapter Four: Conversation as Experiential Learning in Baker, A., Jensen, P.J. and Kolb, D.A. (2002) Chapter Four. Conversational Learning An Experiential Approach to Knowledge Creation. Westport, Connecticut: Quorum Books 

Additional pictures and diagrams have been added to aid understand for both myself and the reader. However it is recommended that the reader also uses the link provided for further reading. To access web location of any image used via a link can be found at the end of this post. 

What is Conversation as Experiential Learning?

v Grounded in the theory of experiential learning (ELT)

v Theoretical framework for conversational learning

v A process whereby learners construct meaning and transform experiences into knowledge through conversation.

v Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) provides the holistic model of the learning process.

"...the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience" Kolb (1984:p.41)

Intellectual origins of Conversation as Experiential Learning

Dialectic related modes of ELT

In grasping experience new information is perceived in either of the following ways:

Experiencing the concrete, tangible, felt qualities of the work, relying on senses and immersing oneself in concrete reality or;

Taking hold of new information through symbolic representation or abstract conceptualization, thinking about, analyzing, or systematically planning, rather than using sensation as a guide

In transforming or processing experience new information is received through:

Carefully watching others involved in the experience and reflect on what happens or;

Jumping right in and immediately start doing things

Experiential Learning Theory:
  • Four-stage experiential learning cycle
  • learners resolve the tension of two dialectically opposite learning dimensions in a cyclical fashion
1. Cycle begins with immediate or concrete experiences
2. CE's serve as the basis for observations and reflections
3. Reflection are assimilated into abstract concepts
4. AC's prove the basis from which new implications for action can be drawn
  • These implications can be actively tested and serve as guides in creating new experiences for the next cycle

Conversation as Experiential Learning:
  • Experiential learning process occurs in conversation
  • Same cyclical process experience, reflection, abstracting and acting
  • Meaning and understanding constructed from experiences in conversation

The theoretical framework is based on five process dialectics, where participants engage in conversation by embracing the differences across these dialectics, the boundaries of these dialectics open a conversation space.

First Process: the dialectic of the knowing dimensions of experiential learning theory - apprehension and comprehension.

Second Process: the dialectic of praxis that incorporates tech integration of intention/reflection and of extension /action is explored

Third Process: the dialectical tension between the epistemological/discursive process (theory of  existence/repeatedly applying function to itself)

Fourth Process: dialectic of individuality and relationality that contrasts conversation as inside-out and outside-in

Fifth Process: dialectic of status and solidarity describes the ranking and linking dynamics that shape the social realm of conversation

A closer look at the five dialectical processes

v A conversational space is opened within which opposing ideas can be explored, resolved or embraced though conversations.

v The conversational space can be equated to the autopoietic (self-making/maintaining system) process of a living system

v Self-organized, autonomous system by specifying its laws and determining what is proper to its existence

v Governed by two primary tasks

o   To regenerate and realize the network of processes that enables its existence through their continuous interactions and transformations (mind mapping through conversations)

o   To specify the boundary of its realization as a concrete unity in the space they exist (understanding with definition)

v These are not separate sequential processes, but two different dimensions of the same phenomenon.

v The five dialectics serves as a network of dynamic processes that opens up a conversational space


Apprehension and Comprehension: concrete knowing and abstract knowing

v Concrete knowing is called apprehension – an immediate, feeling-oriented, tacit, subjective process

v  Abstract knowing is called comprehension – a linguistic, conceptual, interpretative process

v Learning based o the complex inter-relationship of these two knowing processes.

o   Knowledge of acquaintance based on direct perception (apprehension)

o   Knowledge about based on mediating conception (comprehension)

o   Perception is solely of the hear and now

o   Conception is of the like and unlike, of the future, and of the past, and of the far away

v Conversation is more than an exchange of concepts; it is a perceptual process as well

Intension and extension: reflection and action

v Simple perception of experience alone is not sufficient for learning; something must be done with it.

v Transformation alone cannot represent learning, there must be something to be transformed

v Learning is like breathing; if follows a rhythm of taking in and putting out

v Incorporating ideas and experience to find meaning

v Expressing that meaning in thought, speech and action

 Thinking and making sense of something by attaching it to another concrete experience. The doing has to be active and fun. The experience needs to be such that the recipient of that experience will want to take it further.

In essence: Read it, hear it, experience it and gain better understanding by talking about it

Epistemological Discourse and Ontological Recourse: doing and being

Conversational learning occurs within two distinct by interconnected temporal dimensions: linear time and cyclical time

v The discursive process is guided by linear time

v The recursive process follows a rhythm of cyclical time

v The discursive process is an epistemological manifestation of individuals’ ideas and experiences that are made explicit in conversations

v Recursive proces is an ontological and subjective manifestation of the desire to return to the same ideas and experiences generated in conversations

The discursive process follows a linear time progression from pre-course, discourse to post-course

v Pre-course – reflecting back on what has been previously discussed and sets the structure and ground rules for conversation

v Discourse – the framing and naming or aims and objectives

v Post-course – the process of sorting what to keep and what to throw away, which then becomes the pre-course for future conversations


Individuality and Relationality: inside-out and outside-in

v Tension between individuals

v The balance of maintaining a sense of self while being aware of and open to the influence of others

v Combining together the stands of rational and emotive thought

v Intergrating objective and subjective knowing

v Being able to enter into dialogue with another and allowing oneselve to be carried along further by the dialogue

 Status and Solidarity: ranking and linking

v Requires mutual respect and understanidng toward one another

v Status refers to positional ranking in the group

v Solidarity refers to interpersonal link within a network or relationships

v Both status and solidarity required to sustain conversation

v Without status conversation can lose direction

v Without solidarity can lose connection and relevance 

The Conversational Learning Space

Polar extremes:

v Can occur in many dimensions

v Dialectic dominants impede conversational learning

v Dual knowledge dialectic opens conversational space

v Speaking without listening or listening without speaking is futile

v Reflection without action is just idle chatter

v Activism by itself become just action for action’s sake

v Discourse without recourse is just brute force

v Extreme individualism results in alienation

v Total relatedness leads to conversations that go nowhere

v Totalitarianism crushes other voices

v Laissez faire egalitarianism produces aimless talk

 Polar similarities:

v As conversation progresses normative core values and structure develops

v Boundaries that define the conversational learning space are created

v These norms determine

o   What can be said and not said

o   Who has a voice and who does not have a voice

v These norms create boundaries that define

o   Who is in and out of the conversation

o   Exclusion for those who do not know or who refuse to abide or participate by the rules

“From this perspective, boundaries are not con fines by ‘shape-givers’ that can provide us with healthy space to grow… boundaries are not prisons, rather, they serve an essential function to make our existence more alive and vibrant” (Wyss, 1997) 


Baker, A., Jensen, P.J. and Kolb, D.A. (2002) Chapter 4. Conversational Learning An Experiential Approach to Knowledge Creation. Westport, Connecticut: Quorum Books [Online] Available from:
Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall

Links to images used in order of appearance:

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