Experience-Based Learning

The Effectiveness of The EDGE Experience

Adult learning is an evolving field of research revealing that adults learn best when they are actively experiencing concepts. Doing = learning. That is what The EDGE experience is all about, and we take active learning one step further. We facilitate processing dialogues that allow participants to reflect on how their experience can be transferred to practical applications.

The Mason Center for Team and Organizational Learning prides itself on staying on the cutting edge of adult learning and training. We spend a great deal of time researching trends and putting the best methods into practice.

What We Do

Clients who participate in ProfessionalEDGE programs experience fortified relationships and obtain the tools to sustain growth and momentum that are the result of transformed workplace politics and new found commitment.

Teams begin an EDGE workshop as a work group and leave as learning organizations capable of critically analyzing and improving the way they work. Through the process that The EDGE teaches, organizations gain the tools for continual learning, which results in sustained growth and perpetual forward momentum. Most organizations rarely talk about how they work, but how they work is just as important as the work they do. Once an organization learns how to talk about how they work, they can reflect on what they have done, learn from it, and improve on it in the future. Making improvements is not a one-time thing; it is a commitment to continually improving the workplace and rising above workplace politics. Participating in a program with The EDGE is the first step to “renovating” your organization.

Not only are ProfessionalEDGE programs beneficial for teams, they also benefit individual team members by changing the way members think about themselves and others. Our initiatives encourage individuals to take greater responsibility for their contributions while challenging team members to overcome their perceived limitations.

ProfessionalEDGE programs are the catalyst for a new found commitment among members that results in cohesive, more effective work units that benefit from stronger relationships. The programs teach teams a common language for discussing organizational issues and a process for reflecting on organizational work and interactions. Commitment among team members allows the members to share information freely while fostering trust.

How We Do It

Experiential Learning How The EDGE Does ItWe create team-building experiences through experiential education. Using the Action Learning cycle we work with teams through a four-step process:

Activity—We set up an activity for a group that creates a simulated organizational dynamic. Most activities require the team to reach a goal, solve a problem, or finish a project. However, learning may occur even if they don’t complete the task.

Reflection—Following each activity, an EDGE facilitator will guide the team in a discussion about what happened during the activity allowing the team to learn how to talk about how they work and build awareness for potential group challenges.

Analysis—Once the group has discussed what happened during the previous activity, they can analyze how the challenges that arose during the activity may apply to their work environment. Analysis may come from models the facilitator introduces, previous experiences team members have had, and from articles, theories, and other writings.

Ideas—Once the team has a good understanding of the activity’s outcome, they can begin to develop ideas for handling future activities and even upcoming projects.

Using this complete model, teams learn to understand how they can avoid issues such as analysis paralysis and crisis management and begin to increase their effectiveness. They also learn to recognize strengths and to capitalize on differences.

With each activity, the challenge increases, forcing the team to hone its communication, goal setting, planning, and implementation skills. Additionally, elements such as trust and leadership are essential for the group to be successful in their activities. The activity brings team work issues to the forefront, the team is given the opportunity to reflect on the activity, the issues they encountered, and then think about how future activity processes can be improved through a facilitated debrief following each activity.

As the program progresses, the team’s learning builds. What might have been challenges at the beginning of the day have been conquered. By the end of the day, the participants have been exposed to a new level of team awareness, and have been introduced to new skills and techniques for dealing with  bigger, more complex issues. Perhaps most importantly, the team has been given a new language for talking about the challenges they face individually and as a unit.

Many times, organizations come to The EDGE with unique circumstances. With this information, the facilitators lead the team through specific activities that will encourage the team to confront the challenges they face. The result is new awareness for the challenges and skills that will carry back to the workplace.

Why It Works

In the last 30 years,  a great deal of research has been done on adult learning. The research results all indicate that adults learn best when they actively experience a concept or idea. As compared to other methods of training, these active learning experiences create the highest percentage of not only remembering the concept but actually using it (also referred to as “transfer”). Research also indicates that when training is fun, recall will be much greater. The organic experience of learning as a team in a fun, casual atmosphere creates a common language to discuss other challenges that may emerge as the team matures and changes.


As advocates of experiential education, we invite you to learn more about adult learning and “experiential education”.  Enjoy exploring these sources.

Web Sites

Association for Experiential Education

Association for Challenge Course Technology

National Society for Experiential Education

Experience-based Training and Development Research Studies

Experienced Based Learning Systems Research Library

Articles and Papers

Daniels, M.R. (1997). The ROPES course: applications for education and training. Journal of Public Administration Education, 3(2), 239-242.

Froiland, P. (1994, January). Action learning: Taming real problems in real time. Training, 31, 27-34.

Goldenberg, M.A., Nesbitt, G.M., Klenosky, D.B., O’Leary, J.T., & Templin, T.J. (1998). An introduction to ropes course and team challenge programs. National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association Journal, 2(2), 42-47.

Harris, K. & Barbee, R. (1999). An empirical evaluation of experience-based learning: A ropes course illustration. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 81(5), 1311-1316.

Morris, E.K. (1987, Fall). Utilizing a ropes course in staff orientation. National Intramural and Recreational Sport Association Journal, 40-41.

Priest, S. (1998). Research update: Physical challenge and the development of trust through corporate adventure training. Journal of Experiential Education, 21(1), 31-34.

Steinfield, C. (1997). Challenge courses can build strong teams. Training & Development, 51(4), 12-14.


Cain, J. & Jolliff, B. (1998). Teamwork & Teamplay: A guide to cooperative, challenge, and adventure activities. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 419 pages.

Kilpatrick, D.L. (1998). Evaluating training programs—The four levels. San Francisco, CA: Berrett Kohler, 275 pages.