Although everybody learns from experience, nobody always learns from experience. Most at times repeat some mistakes, despite bad experiences. Burnard (1996) expresses surprises about how often he 'learned' the really important things in his life through experiences that he found interesting or important. It may therefore be assumed that for learning in vivo to achieve its desired objectives, the facilitator should make it to matter.
Learning from the mistakes of others is called vicarious learning by Burnard (1996). The experiences of other may make such an impression that we derive learning from it.
Burnard (1996) observes that all definitions of learning experientially have in common the first-person, living human being, taking note of what happens to apply to new situations in future.
Experiential learning is not just about learning from doing (or the observing of the experiences of other, as indicated above), it is also about deriving learning from reflecting. Burnard (1996) emphasise the latter, rather than just acting and possibly forfeiting the learning opportunity. To optimise structured in vivo learning, it appears that the facilitator should therefore 'build in' reflection, i.e. ensure 'noticing'.
Burnard (1996) emphasises the issue of reflection. People often proceed through life only half conscious, on 'auto pilot'. People often do not register what they are experiencing. Burnard emphasise the importance of 'mindfulness'. In the contemporary world of continuous change and coping with demands, people need to consciously pursue mindfulness (simply means to pay attention — to your body, to your mind, to your surroundings, to the people in your life, to the tasks you undertake).
Flowing from the above, Burnard (p. 9) redefines experiential learning as "any learning activity that enhances the development of experiential knowledge".
Burnard refers further to Paulo Freire's (1972) concept "praxis", which includes both reflection as well as action-on-the-world. Praxis implies transforming, which is one of the human's distinguishing features. Burnard also refers to George Kelly's (1955) notion of people going through life applying a modified scientific process, i.e. hypothesising about matters, observing reality and modifying of our hypotheses based on our findings.
Burnard, P. 1996. Acquiring interpersonal skills - a handbook of experiential learning for health professionals. 2nd edition. London: Chapman & Hall.