The Evolution of Experiential Learning Theory: Tracing Lines of Research in the JEE

Academic Article


  • This essay introduces a collection of past articles from the Journal of Experiential Education ( JEE) focused on the concept of experiential learning. It outlines the historical trajectory of the concept beginning with human relations training practices beginning in 1946, as it came to be understood as a naturally occurring psychological process and a grounding for pedagogical reforms. The eight articles included in the issue reflect the way JEE authors have contended with problems arising from the concept’s departure from its origins in practice. We suggest that experiential learning’s evolution into a general theory was accomplished by decoupling it from its roots in a particular social practice and ideology, and then focusing on the concept’s technical problems. It is now important for researchers to revisit assumptions underpinning current theory and practice, situate research on experiential learning in wider practical and scholarly traditions, and develop new vocabularies concerning the relationship between experience and learning in educational programs.
  • Authors

  • Seaman, Jayson
  • Brown, Mike
  • Quay, John
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • December 2017
  • Published In


  • educational history
  • experiential learning
  • human potential movement
  • learning theory
  • progressive education
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • NP1
  • End Page

  • NP21
  • Volume

  • 40
  • Issue

  • 4