Experiential Learning

The CPS is examining how people learn and apply their learning in real-world performance contexts, redefining what is meant by performance education.

The challenge

The conditions under which people perform can be very different from those in which they learn, be it in the arts, business, education, medicine, science, or sport. This stems in part from a gap in training: not only do performers require knowledge, but they need to be able to apply their knowledge to perform well. But where and how do performers get that experience? Experiential learning – an approach in which people learn through direct engagement with a phenomenon and then reflect upon that engagement – is essential, as is support to help performers translate and apply new learning to broader contexts. We recognise that the processes, outcomes, and applications of experiential learning need to be developed and examined systematically.

Our approach

Working out the characteristics of effective learning is central to applied research and knowledge exchange within the CPS. Throughout higher education, an imbalance has been identified between the time and resources devoted to didactic teaching and the typical catalysts of actual understanding and behavioural change. Concurrently, performers of all types report that their training sometimes leaves them feeling unprepared to cope with the demands of professional life. As a result, learners are rightly coming to expect more diverse opportunities for gaining valuable hands-on experience.

We are examining the impact of experiential learning on skill acquisition and performance across a wide range of fields, identifying properties of effective learning and factors that moderate the successful application of skills in real-world contexts. One means by which we do this is through simulation, an approach to recreating the conditions and contexts of performance, as in the RCM’s Performance Simulator, Imperial’s Surgical Simulation Suite, and Imperial’s Carbon Capture Pilot Plant. We are also pioneering new approaches to interdisciplinary experiential learning, where performers observe and experience the challenges of performance through the lens of another field, allowing them to draw back relevant skills and insight to their own domain. The unfamiliarity of engaging in different types of performance allows people to challenge entrenched habits and patterns of working that may hinder their openness to new ideas and innovation.

Our research is beginning to shape curricula in the arts, business, education, medicine, science, and sport, offering enhanced long-term outcomes for performers in these fields. For instance, music performance simulation is now employed at collaborating conservatoires in Europe, and our Impact Lab approach has been used to inform executive education programmes in London and in East Asia. Moving forward, we are employing performance as a means of reframing professional training, supported by state-of-the-art performance simulation protocols and radically new interdisciplinary exchanges.