Experimental Learning Theory Guiding Research

Experimental learning theory as a Lens in a Research Study

Experimental Learning theory was developed by C Rogers and ‘refers to applied knowledge’ in contrast to cognitive learning. Using the experimental learning theory as a lens for an art education research project would provide many guidelines.

The first would be in defining constructs of the study, for example art education as a construct in a study. With Experimental Learning Theory as a lens, the focus in defining art education would be on applied knowledge or experimental learning instead of other forms of learning. Using Experimental Learning Theory as a guide for the study would also imply that experimental learning is superior to cognitive learning.

During the analysis portion of the study, Experimental Learning Theory would guide determination of success of learning and educating. Successful learning or effectiveness of an art education program would be determined by the components of Experimental Learning, in which:

1) the student participates completely in the learning process and has control over its nature and direction, (2) it is primarily based upon direct confrontation with practical, social, personal or research problems, and (3) self-evaluation is the principal method of assessing progress or success. (“TIP: Theories.”)

 Successful educating can also be defined with the Experimental Learning Theory. Experimental Learning Theory considers the educator as a facilitator and successful facilitating includes:

(1) setting a positive climate for learning, (2) clarifying the purposes of the learner(s), (3) organizing and making available learning resources, (4) balancing intellectual and emotional components of learning, and (5) sharing feelings and thoughts with learners but not dominating.  (“TIP: Theories.”)

In addition the theory suggests a power relationship that can guide the study. The theory states that the facilitator should not be dominating and suggests a more equal interaction between facilitator and learner. This idea can be applied to data collection of a study in which the researcher is not dominating but participates in a more equal power relationship with the subjects of the study.

Another important facet of Experimental Learning Theory that would guide a study is the idea that ‘all human beings have a natural propensity to learn’ which seems to cross cultural boundaries. This idea suggests a commonality in the research no matter what location is being studied.

In interpreting data the researcher would also be focused in on the internal drive of the subjects because experimental learning emphasizes the internal aspects of learning. Threat to self may decrease the ‘natural propensity to learn’ which would guide the researcher in how he or she interprets the data – is there a threat of self to the subjects of the study and how has this impacted data (“TIP: Theories.”)

Furthermore, because the theory is based on applied learning (learning with a purpose), the study may also be looked at in terms of applied learning. Instead of performing a study to produce knowledge for knowledge sake, it would seem to make sense that the study itself would be applied to current situations and have a significant purpose.


“TIP: Theories.” Theory Into Practice (TIP). Web. 27 Sept. 2010. <http://tip.psychology.org/rogers.html&gt;.

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One Response to Experimental Learning Theory Guiding Research

  1. Karen says:

    Nice overview. Kolb’s experiential learning theory is a holistic perspective of learning. In art education, Laurel Campbell brings the term and concept “spirituality” into art education discourse as a contemporary theory in art education aligned with inclusiveness and holistic philosophy. Elizabeth Ellsworth, in her 2005 book, Places of Learning, refers to the “relational self,” and to D. W. Winnicott’s concept of transitional space as the time and place out of which experiences of the learning emerge, which is also a philosophical position of transformation in holistic education and experiential learning theory.

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