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Stepping into the unknown: dialogical experiential learning

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to bring attention to a more embodied, holistic way of working which acknowledges not only the mind, but also the body and emotions, of learners and facilitators as they work together in a co-created relationship to experience a different way of learning and relating. The authors suggest that practitioners step away from the traditional boundaries of reflecting on experiential learning activities post action. They propose a stronger emphasis on working in relationship with clients in the here and now, to support novel ways of relating and learning to emerge. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Adapting a reflective inquiry approach, the authors engaged in reflective and reflexive practice to offer a conceptual paper on a dialogical and embodied orientation to experiential learning. Findings ‐ Learning within Outdoor Management Development (OMD) activities can be enriched within the context of a dialogical relationship where participants are invited to attend to their embodied experience and trust different ways of knowing. This requires a shift from the more individualist to a relational paradigm of relating and learning. Research limitations/implications ‐ The authors acknowledge the inter-subjective nature of learning that emerges from within the relationship. So, while a model is proposed to support meaning making, it is not prescribed and in fact the authors realise that it is paradoxical to the emergent nature of learning within relationships. Practical implications ‐ The authors seek an alternative approach to Kolb when facilitating experiential learning. They propose the Dialogical Experiential Learning Model, inviting facilitators and participants to be more curious about the experience of working in a specific context, while recognising it will be subject to change. Originality/value ‐ The dialogical orientation of practitioners and the use of a model does, however, offer guiding principles to support facilitation of experiential learning, while challenging current practitioner knowledge.
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Keywords: Contextual learning; Dialogical experiential learning; Dialogical relationship; Embodiment; Experiential learning; Holistic; Interpersonal relations; Mind; Ways of knowing

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-03-16

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