Experience-based Learning…and Teaching​

Experiential Learning Theory (ELT), as the name suggests, puts experience in the main role when considering learning and development.

Experiential Learning Theory defines learning as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience.” (Kolb, 1984, p.41)

Grasping experience is done through Concrete Experience: CE (actually having an experience) and Abstract Conceptualization: AC (thinking about what you experienced). The transformation comes from Reflective Observation: RO and Active Experimentation: AE; here our thoughts and reflections get transferred to new experiences.





As educators, the ELT believes that our job is to help learners maximize learning by moving through the four stages of the cycle.  In fact, highly successful educators often “teach around the learning circle” and the various roles they take on help to facilitate the transition from one learning mode to another.   This constant movement creates a learning spiral where experience is reflected upon, and the new experience becomes “richer, broader, and deeper”.  These reflections are carried into further explorations and the transfer into new experiences- a continuing spiral of learning.  Understandings and new experiences become more sophisticated, and actions become more effective as the spiral continues.

Promoting a person’s learning is a complex task requiring attention to mulitple competing demands- the needs and interests of the learner and knowledge of the subject matter, understanding the deeper meaning and implications of knowledge and its practical application to the learner’s life challenges.  As teachers, coaches, leaders, parents, and friends, we often find ourselves facing these challenges of education.

The Kolb Educator Role Profile, 2013


Kolb Educator Role Profile



When I saw my profile (complete your own questionnaire to get your profile here), I was satisfied with my survey results:

my educator profile

They match what I see as my role in the classroom: facilitator and coach.  I know my role as an expert comes out occasionally, but do I want to be an evaluator?  How can I evaluate how well individuals are accepting and dealing with hearing loss?

Becoming aware of the different educational roles you can adopt will help you design courses and curricula that maximize student learning by helping them develop a rich array of learning strategies they would not have been able to obtain with a single teaching approach.

The Kolb Educator Role Profile, 2016

I have a new incentive to ‘teach through the cycles’ and not be complacent in my roles as facilitator and coach.  Here are some ideas of how I might strengthen my roles of expert and evaluator:

  • remember that learning happens best when learners integrate new concepts into their existing understanding.  It is my job to review past knowledge and help make those connections to the new experiences with them.
  • encourage learners to analyze and build models and to establish their own theories.  I can ask my learners: What have you tried?  What worked?  What can you change?
  • ask them to reflect on their experiences so they can organize their thoughts.  I will suggest they keep a journal or blog.
  • assist learners in creating a plan for action or developing learning goals.  What can you do next?  What kind of communication situation will you be encountering?  How can you plan ahead by thinking about the factors that affect your communication: Environment, Speaker, Listener, and Message?
  • measure learner performance against established criteria and provide feedback.  I am a content expert, and as such can provide additional ideas and potential successes and downfalls of their ideas for effective communication.

The ELT provides a good framework for the learning and teaching that happens in the Speechreading course.




Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Additional sites to explore:




Hearing Loss, Memory, and Cognition


What is the connection between hearing loss, memory, and cognition?

Beck and Flexer (2011) coined “Listening Is Where Hearing Meets Brain” to emphasize the fact that attributing meaning to sound (i.e., listening) is the more important and significant goal from the patient’s perspective, than simply hearing or perceiving sounds. Indeed, patients want to be able to make sense of sound, not just hear it.

What do those with hearing loss feel about what is happening?

I just can’t remember things like I used to.

It’s so hard for me to be a student now with my hearing loss.  I don’t learn as easily as I did before.

I feel like I’m not as smart as I use to be.

 Speechreading students


Students in my Speechreading class have long complained about having more trouble remembering things than they use to have: names, details from conversations, information from classes.  It makes sense to me.  I explain to them that the more mental resources used to merely perceive and comprehend what is being said, the less resources available to process and remember.  If the speech is degraded, their brain is working harder to merely process the sounds.  The information cannot be accessed by the sensory memory, which in turn complicates the processing that would occur in the working memory.  When this occurs, what happens to comprehension, memory and the effort put forth?

… an effortfulness hypothesis: the notion that the extra effort that a hearing-impaired listener must expend to achieve perceptual success comes at the cost of processing resources that might otherwise be available for encoding the speech content in memory.

McCoy, Tun, Cox, Colangelo, Stewart, and Wingfield, 2005


What can those with hearing loss (and those who communicate with them) do to reduce the drain on the resources?  Hearing aids can help.  Effective communication is also very beneficial.  Encouraging communication partners to speak more clearly, a little more slowly, and just a little more loudly.  If the topic is stated before the conversation starts, that’s very useful!  Anything that can provide a more favourable signal-to-noise ratio also helps: reduce background noise, reduce reverberation, use assistive listening technology, get closer to what you want to hear and further from distracting noise sources.

Beck and Clark (2009) noted the relationship between audition and cognition is interdependent and symbiotic, stating “audition matters more as cognition declines, and cognition matters more as audition declines.”

What does this mean to adult learners who have hearing loss?  My responsibilities as an instructor include:

  • ensuring potential students are comfortable and have any questions answered before the course begins
  • being an effective communicator throughout
  • encouraging and supporting all students to be effective communicators
  • providing a hearing-accessible teaching environment
  • ensuring the content is relevant and practical
  • arranging learning opportunities that do not rely only on audition, if possible, to reduce the effort to comprehend (less lecture, more activities)

All that I am discovering about adult learning intertwines and supports my role as a facilitator in my classroom.  The characteristics of adult learners, how they learn, what motivates them, memory and cognition- this is information I need to keep in mind each time I prepare for and step into my classroom.  We all benefit from this knowledge.



Beck, D., & Clark, J. (2009, March 20). Audition Matters More as Cognition Declines: Cognition Matters More as Audition Declines. Retrieved July 22, 2016, from http://www.audiology.org/news/audition-matters-more-cognition-declines-cognition-matters-more-audition-declines
Beck, D., & Flexer, C. (2011, February 2). Listening Is Where Hearing Meets Brain…in Children and Adults – Hearing Review. Retrieved July 22, 2016, from http://www.hearingreview.com/2011/02/listening-is-where-hearing-meets-brain-in-children-and-adults/
Mccoy, S. L., Tun, P. A., Cox, L. C., Colangelo, M., Stewart, R. A., & Wingfield, A. (2005, January). Hearing loss and perceptual effort: Downstream effects on older adults’ memory for speech. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A, 58(1), 22-33. doi:10.1080/02724980443000151

Learning Pyramid

I participated in PIDP 3220 this week.  I feel like I engaged in a lot of adult learning myself, and this diagram and its implications have been on my mind.  I’m recognising that I need to change how I’ve been teaching some of my topics in Speechreading.  It’s time to commit to fewer lectures.  I want to  provide the opportunity for my students to teach each other and make it a priority to include more practice time in class.


learning pyramid



The Puzzle of Motivation

I enjoyed Dan Pink’s YouTube video “The Puzzle of Motivation”, explaining his theory of ‘drive’.  The video describes what research tells us about motivation and how businesses use motivational strategies, and it questions the mismatch between the two. He describes what he believes are the three elements of true motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  I love RSA Animate videos, and I found one on a similar lecture.  Take a look!



His book, Drive, details his theory and gives techniques for putting these motivational strategies into action.  The book describes “the surprising truth about what motivates us”.

Most of us believe that the best way to motivate ourselves and others is with external rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That’s a mistake…The secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.


Understanding this theory will improve my teaching and enrich the experience and motivation of my students if I keep these elements in mind as I plan my course and interact and teach the students:

  • Autonomy: our desire to be self-directed
    • In Speechreading, ask the students for real-life examples of miscommunication they would like to problem-solve.  Ask the students for topics they would like to address in class; many are universal (e.g. restaurants, telephone conversations, group conversations),  but getting the ideas from the class gives them some ownership of the topics.  Plus, they might come up with other great ideas!
  • Mastery: our desire to improve
    • In Speechreading, if activities are fun and the students see that they are improving at trouble-shooting difficult listening situations, or gaining the confidence to be more assertive, and it is making a difference in their interactions with others, they will be motivated to continue to learn and improve.
  • Purpose: our desire to make a contribution
    • In Speechreading, group discussions allow students who have more experience, skills, and knowledge to share those talents with other students (and me!) and make a contribution to learning in the classroom.

I think this view of motivation applies not only to our students as they learn but also to us, as teachers, as we facilitate that learning in others.  Pink suggests that we continue to learn and grow and make the world a little bit better if we combine motivation with the answer to these two questions on a daily basis:

  • What’s my story?
  • Am I better today than yesterday?

With a better grasp of Pink’s theory of ‘drive’, maybe motivation is not so puzzling after all.

Humour in the Classroom

Humour is a comfortable component of my Speechreading courses.  However, prior to PIDP 3100, I had been unaware of the vast benefits it can impart on students, their learning objectives, and their classroom experiences.

“Humor is a powerful force. It can encourage an atmosphere of openness, develop students’ divergent thinking, improve their retention of the presented materials, and garner respect for the teacher.”

Eagen, 2011

Garner (2006) discusses the benefits of using humour in the classroom.  Results of his study show that humour can be a robust tool that can engage students so they feel the information was communicated more effectively and significantly increase students’ abilities to retain and recall information.  He cautions that humour must be specific to the subject material, be included primarily to enhance the learning environment, and be appropriate for the audience.

“Humor has psychological, social, and cognitive (educational) benefits. Humor has the power to make instructors more likable, approachable, facilitate comprehension, increase attentiveness, improve creativity, and promote social relationships.”

Lei, Cohen, & Russler, 2010

You can read about the many additional benefits of humour and laughter here, including stimulation of the cerebral cortex, promoting endorphin release, and alleviating anxiety and depression.  It can encourage a sense of trust, set the tone for a relaxed atmosphere, and foster group cohesion.  Humour also captures students’ attention and bolsters self-confidence and creativity.

Atherton (2013) provides guidelines for using humour in the classroom.  My favourites were:

  • Integrate humour into the main substance of the material rather than using one-off jokes, as it enhances learning and memory
  • Never use humour that is potentially offensive to anyone
  • Be sure to connect your humour to the material or topic. Keep it short, but identifiable.
  • If you don’t remember if you’ve told a joke before, skip it. If there are typically jokes that you tell in a course, make a list and check them off as you go!

Humour is an essential part of my classroom.  I use humour throughout my course by sharing stories of past students, giving examples of how to respond when you have misunderstood, and as a general recommendation for dealing with the daily struggle of living with a hearing loss.  It is interwoven in how and what I instruct.  I let my students know early in my course that I will use humour as a strategy (they have probably already experienced it if we are past the first class!), but I am also quick to say that I don’t believe that hearing loss or the difficulties it imparts are funny.  I know they aren’t, but I ask ‘what are the alternatives?’  Anger?  Depression?


LOL. (n.d.) Retrieved July 06, 2016 from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/3955442779749745832/


Throughout the Speechreading course, we discuss how humour can diffuse a tense miscommunication.  It can often effectively relay a message that is either ignored or misunderstood otherwise.  A student once shared that since we had talked in class about using humour as a strategy, she was attempting to use humour to get her husband to understand her frustrations with his lack of accommodation at home.  Despite her constant reminders that she needed him to look at her when he spoke, he repeatedly asked her questions when he was looking for something in the fridge.  During one such occasion, she casually asked him about his girlfriend in the fridge.  He looked at her quizzically.  She replied, “you must not be talking to me, because I am sitting over here and couldn’t possibly hear you with your head in the fridge”.  He smiled.  When I asked her weeks later about the girlfriend in the fridge, she told me that she doesn’t come around very often anymore.  Success!

When students relay real-life experiences with hearing loss, others in the class empathise and they laugh together.  When a librarian told of a situation where she spent time showing a gentleman all the resources available on mushrooms, only to discover he had asked the whereabouts of the washroom, everyone chuckled and nodded knowingly.  Being able to laugh at these experiences permits others to share their embarrassing situations and see that they certainly are not alone.  I have seen the most reserved person in the class speak up and share a story when others have previously put themselves out there.

I put a joke related to hearing loss on the agenda each week, and we celebrate the end of the course with a slideshow of comics relating to hearing loss and communication.  Past students email me to share when they find a good one, and I take that as a sign of an approved classroom tool!  This post has allowed me to think about how and why I use humour in my teaching.  While it was something I did naturally, I now see the many benefits it provides and the importance it plays in my teaching efforts.


Interesting sources about humour in the classroom:

All sites retrieved July 4, 2016.

Skype Call with Learning Partner

I had a great call with my learning partner, Gurjit, today.  We both agreed that this course is time-consuming but so interesting and relevant for us in our careers.  We appreciate learning how adults learn.  Even though we both teach adults, neither of us have spent much time thinking about this as a process that we should know more about.  It is interesting how our fields and experiences are so different, but the ultimate goal is similar.

learning partners

Comparing Fields and Learning Environments

We practice in very different worlds; I am an audiologist, and she is a CPA.  Our teaching demands and methods are quite varied.  I am an audiologist working with a small group of adults (6-10), in a face-to-face setting.  My students and I have little contact outside of our classroom, though we may communicate through emails.  We meet once a week for 2.5 hours over 12 weeks.  Gurjit teaches an 8-week, full-time course in an online environment.  She can be responsible for as few as 6 students or as many as 100, with the expectation of responding to queries within 24 hours.  I see my role primarily as a facilitator; her role ranges from instructor to facilitator, depending on whether the job calls for teaching information or supporting case study lessons.

Trends in Adult Education

Gurjit addressed the topic of eLearning, which plays a large part in her learning environment and is becoming more common in post-secondary learning.  She cited one challenge as trying to replicate the classroom environment.  I, on the other hand, have a strong and positive classroom experience but am about to introduce a small component of ‘online learning’ through a flipped classroom experience for the first time.

Roles, Responsibilities, and The Future

We both believe that the future of our respective fields is primed for growth: audiology due to a greater number of adults with hearing loss and accounting due to a bigger demand resulting from economic growth and retirement of current professionals.  Gurgit feels that clients are interested in automating some of their accounting processes, thus potentially dividing a CPA role into an accounting stream and a technology stream.  The future of audiology is technologically-driven though diagnostics, hearing aids, and alternate hearing assistive technology.  However, what will get the profession of audiology to thrive is the commitment to address the humanistic side of hearing loss.  Let’s not forget that the hearing impairment is only one small part of the person as a whole.  Similarly, taxes are just one component of accounting systems.

The lasting thought I am taking away from our conversation is this: both professions need to address ‘value-added service’.  The most important factor for us to address is that we should base what and how we teach on those who are coming to us and the feedback we receive.  We must listen to our students and clients, learn more about who they are, what their needs are, and figure out how to address those needs.  Maybe communication and taxes aren’t so far apart after all!

Gurgit’s blog can be found here.