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What are your strategies for learning from experience? Which ones work well?

Introduction | Raising Self-esteem | Reducing Offending

There are a limitless range of strategies available for using experience as a source of learning.

This is not always apparent.

Some practitioners simply hope that an experience will be valuable and they make little effort to influence the experience, or even to find out what was experienced - let alone review it!

On the other hand, there are practitioners who zealously follow their favourite model of experiential learning without appreciating the limitless world of learning strategies that exists - a world that no single model or insight could possibly capture.

This page currently provides just two lists of strategies for achieving two kinds of objectives in experience-based learning:

  1. The first objective - that of 'raising self-esteem' - regularly features as a high priority in experience-based learning.
  2. The second objective - 'reducing offending' - comes from a more specialised area of work, but many of the principles involved can be applied to the achievement of other objectives using experiential methods.

As with most sections, this one will be extended. It will include more strategies for achieving other goals with other kinds of learners - strategies that maximise learning from experience when trying to achieve specific goals. If you want to contribute, please get in touch! (You will find contact details at the foot of each page and on the main index page)

Introduction | Raising Self-esteem | Reducing Offending

Raising SELF-ESTEEM Through Activities

Escaping the Vicious Cycle

People with high self-esteem tend to keep it that way by blaming external factors for their failures and taking personal credit for their successes.

People with low self-esteem tend to keep it that way by blaming themselves for failures and not taking any personal credit for successes. They might attribute their success to luck or to someone else's actions. So despite their "success", their self-esteem and motivation remain low and they are caught in a vicious cycle from which it is difficult to escape.

Through experiencing success and taking credit for it, people with low self-esteem will regain some sense of control over their lives again.

13 Strategies for raising self-esteem

  1. using activities in which people already feel confident, and reviewing their experience.
  2. reviewing positive experiences in ways which highlight what individuals contributed to success.
  3. people doing an activity twice, highlighting relative successes on the second occasion.
  4. doing an activity once to overcome a fear.
  5. negotiating and reviewing targets related to an activity, highlighting how abilities were underestimated at the beginning.
  6. using the group to identify and support the achievement of individual targets.
  7. ensuring that there is a sense of progression for each individual.
  8. searching out suitable opportunities for delegating and trusting so that people have real responsibilities for the organisation or quality of the activity (and are not simply "consumers" of the activity).
  9. encouraging activities in which early success is likely, and in which there is a good chance of further successes soon after.
  10. converting competitive games into co-operative or creative ones.
  11. using a variety of review techniques which give individuals plenty of scope for expressing positive experiences.
  12. encouraging adventurous activities, especially activities likely to generate experiences of self-control, taking risks and achieving what seemed impossible.
  13. "reframing" an experience which is seen as a failure: every cloud has a silver lining.
  14. find a 14th and it will raise your self-esteem. Could creativity be the clue?

Based on More Than Activities
See the Feedback Exercises page for descriptions of associated techniques.
View Self-esteem: The Costs and Causes of Low Self-Worth review of this Rowntree Foundation review of self-esteem research.

View the SEAL report on well-being in schools produced by the Centre for Confidence and Well-being. The report is critical of the way in which SEAL is being promoted in schools, and suggests 'non-psychological' ways of enhancing self-esteem such as:

  • more opportunities for PE/sports/outdoor education/martial arts
  • nutritional support
  • more opportunities for volunteering/community activities
  • more exposure to third world countries/more exchanges.

Introduction | Raising Self-esteem | Reducing Offending

22 ways in which activities can reduce offending

  1. Taking part in activities can reduce opportunities for committing offences.
  2. Clients/participants might see a mixture of 'work' and 'play' as a fair deal, and be more willing to 'work' when 'play' is part of the deal.
  3. Activities can help to develop relationships with workers. Better relationships, in turn, increase the range and quality of work that is more directly related to offending.
  4. Activities can assist group functioning and development, which in turn can improve the quality of group discussions about offending.
  5. Doing activities with police officers or other authority figures, can change attitudes all round. This can help to reduce offending and helps to avert or defuse any future confrontations.
  6. Activities provide more opportunities for positive assessment, and can surprise workers about a person's capabilities and good nature. This can reverse the 'labelling' effect: damaging labels such as 'troublemaker' get replaced by more optimistic ones.
  7. Experiences of success in activities can help to develop self-esteem. This can affect offending behaviour in which low self-esteem is a contributory factor.
  8. If a person gains self-esteem both from activities and offending, then lawful activities can become a substitute for esteem needs which were previously met through unlawful activities.
  9. The reviewing of positive experiences in activities can help to establish reviewing itself as a positive experience. Reviewing skills can then be applied to offending issues.
  10. The reviewing of negative experiences which arise during activities can provide useful insights into difficulties that are related to offending.
  11. When clients/learners are involved in the organisation and design of activities they become more capable of influencing events around them. They may be less likely to get 'caught up' in offending as a result.
  12. Through 'social action', people can benefit both from the process of making things happen and from the results of their efforts. Living in a less hostile, and better resourced neighbourhood they may have changed some environmental causes of offending.
  13. Activities can be set up as skills training exercises. Improved skills in, for example, decision-making, problem-solving, planning, assertiveness, or self-control can reduce the chances of further offending.
  14. Action replays of situations which cause difficulty is an active approach to 'exploring' offending. This can be prepared for by each person drawing a strip cartoon 'script' of events which led up to their offence. Acting out the situation with others, changing roles, or directing their own 'replay' can be followed by discussing or trying out alternative courses of action, such as being more assertive or opting out early on.
  15. An activity can be related to the offence by making amends for the offence in some way, whether directly or indirectly. For example: making gifts for victims of crime; coaching a football team following street fighting; repairing or redecorating following vandalism.
  16. Sponsored activities from litter clean-ups to parachuting can be used to raise funds for causes chosen by people, such as victim support groups.
  17. By organising activities for helping to keep others out of trouble, people may themselves become more motivated to stay out of trouble.
  18. Transformational experiences (similar to spiritual conversion) which result in ex-offenders dedicating themselves to working for others (e.g. involved in social work with offenders). This in turn creates role models who demonstrate to others that dramatic changes in lifestyle are possible.
  19. Loosening up 'personal constructs' (Kelly) or 'unfreezing' (Lewin) so that people are more open to learning (e.g. their sense of freedom and curiosity is awakened).
  20. Direct experience of an alternative culture or lifestyle so that people are aware of alternatives which they may then choose to adopt or adapt.
  21. Using activities as a basis for values clarification work.
  22. Choosing, designing, or introducing activities in ways that highlight connections with offending situations before doing the activity (e.g. in order to create fresh insights or to rehearse alternative courses of action and possible solutions).

Numbers 18-22 have been added since the publication of More Than Activities.
Number 22 takes you into the carefully designed parallel worlds of frontloading, programming, pre-scripted metaphors and isomorphic framing. You will find detailed examples of this strategy (or family of strategies) in the Book of Metaphors by Michael Gass.
Even more strategies? Take a look at these books, articles and research studies about adventure and offending

On this page: Introduction | Raising Self-esteem | Reducing Offending

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Copyright Roger Greenaway, Reviewing Skills Training, who promotes ACTIVE LEARNING via