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Experiential vs. Experimental — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Urooj Arif — Updated on April 22, 2024
Experiential learning is about gaining knowledge through experience, while experimental involves systematic testing and observation.
Experiential vs. Experimental — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Experiential and Experimental


Key Differences

Experiential learning focuses on the process of learning through experience, or "learning by doing." It emphasizes the importance of engaging directly with the content or activity to gain knowledge and skills. This approach is often interactive and can involve simulations, role-playing, or real-world problem solving. On the other hand, experimental learning refers to a method of learning or gaining knowledge through experiments, which are structured and controlled investigations to test hypotheses. This approach is fundamental in scientific research, where variables are manipulated to observe outcomes and draw conclusions about causality.
While experiential learning is broad and can apply to any field or subject matter, experimental learning is more specific and is primarily used within scientific disciplines. Experiential learning values the subjective experience and personal reflection as sources of knowledge. In contrast, experimental learning relies on empirical evidence and the scientific method to establish facts and principles.
Experiential learning is inherently personal and varies greatly among individuals, depending on their previous knowledge, skills, attitudes, and learning environments. Experimental learning, however, strives for universal principles and truths that are independent of the individual's subjective experience, aiming for findings that are generalizable and applicable across different contexts.
Despite their differences, both experiential and experimental learning contribute significantly to the body of knowledge in various fields. Experiential learning enhances personal growth and practical skills, while experimental learning advances theoretical understanding and scientific knowledge.

Comparison Chart


Learning through direct experience or practice.
Learning through conducting and analyzing experiments.


Personal involvement and reflection.
Systematic testing and observation.


Broad, applicable across various fields.
Primarily used in scientific research.


Interactive, based on real-world problem solving.
Structured, based on the scientific method.


Personal growth and practical skills.
Theoretical understanding and scientific knowledge.

Compare with Definitions


Learning through direct involvement in an activity.
Experiential learning in art class involves hands-on painting and sculpting.


Acquiring knowledge by conducting experiments.
Experimental learning in chemistry involves laboratory experiments to understand chemical reactions.


An educational approach that emphasizes engagement and reflection.
Outdoor education camps use experiential learning to teach teamwork.


Learning through the systematic testing of hypotheses.
Students use experimental learning to explore principles of physics.


Gaining skills and knowledge through real-world experiences.
Internships offer experiential learning opportunities in professional settings.


Understanding causality and relationships through experimentation.
Experimental learning in medicine includes clinical trials to evaluate treatments.


Process of learning by doing and reflecting on the experience.
Simulated business projects in class provide experiential learning for students.


Gaining insights through controlled investigation.
Agricultural studies often incorporate experimental learning to test crop yields under different conditions.


Enhancing understanding through participation and practice.
Language immersion programs rely on experiential learning for rapid acquisition.


An approach based on observation and empirical evidence.
Experimental learning in psychology may involve conducting surveys and analyzing behavior.


Relating to or derived from experience.


Relating to or based on experiment
Experimental procedures.
Experimental results.


Of, related to, encountered in, or derived from experience.
Atheists argue that there is no experiential confirmation for the existence of a god.
Each color has a unique experiential quality.


Given to experimenting.


Derived from, or pertaining to, experience.
It is called empirical or experiential . . . because it is given to us by experience or observation, and not obtained as the result of inference or reasoning.


Of the nature of an experiment; constituting or undergoing a test
An experimental drug.


Relating to or resulting from experience;
A personal, experiental reality


Founded on experience; empirical.


Derived from experience or the experience of existence;
The rich experiential content of the teachings of the older philosophers
Formal logicians are not concerned with existential matters


Pertaining to or founded on experiment.
Chemistry is an experimental science.


(sciences) Serving to be experimented upon; used in an experiment.


Serving as an experiment; serving to experiment.
His experimental band
An experimental engine


Experiential, empirical.
Experimental knowledge


The subject of an experiment.


Pertaining to experiment; founded on, or derived from, experiment or trial; as, experimental science; given to, or skilled in, experiment; as, an experimental philosopher.


Known by, or derived from, experience; as, experimental religion.


Relating to or based on experiment;
Experimental physics


Relying on observation or experiment;
Experimental results that supported the hypothesis


Of the nature of or undergoing an experiment;
An experimental drug
A pilot project
A test run
A trial separation

Common Curiosities

How does experiential learning benefit students?

It enhances personal growth, improves practical skills, and fosters a deeper understanding of subject matter through active participation.

What is the main purpose of experiential learning?

To gain knowledge and develop skills through direct experience and reflection.

What is the role of observation in experimental learning?

Observation is crucial for recording data, analyzing results, and drawing conclusions in a structured experimental process.

Can experimental learning be applied outside of science?

While primarily used in scientific disciplines, the principles of experimental learning can be applied in any field that values empirical evidence and systematic investigation.

Can experiential learning be used in scientific education?

Yes, it can complement traditional learning by providing hands-on experience and practical application of scientific concepts.

How does experimental learning contribute to scientific knowledge?

By systematically testing hypotheses and analyzing results to draw conclusions about natural phenomena.

Is experimental learning the same as experimental research?

Yes, experimental learning often involves the same principles as experimental research, focusing on hypothesis testing and empirical evidence.

How do experiential and experimental learning impact education?

Both approaches enrich the educational experience by offering different methods for engaging with material and developing a comprehensive understanding.

How does reflection play a role in experiential learning?

Reflection is key to processing and integrating experiences into practical knowledge and personal growth.

Are there limitations to experiential learning?

While highly effective for personal growth, its subjective nature may not always provide the structured knowledge acquisition that some subjects require.

Can experimental learning be subjective?

The process aims for objectivity through controlled conditions and empirical evidence, minimizing subjectivity in its findings.

Can experiential learning be formalized?

Yes, it can be structured into curricula through activities like internships, simulations, and project-based learning.

What makes experimental learning effective in education?

Its emphasis on empirical evidence, structured investigation, and the scientific method makes it a powerful tool for understanding complex concepts.

What skills does experimental learning develop?

It develops analytical skills, critical thinking, and a rigorous approach to problem-solving.

How do experiential and experimental learning differ in assessment?

Experiential learning assessments are often qualitative, focusing on personal growth and skill development, while experimental learning assessments are quantitative, based on empirical data and analytical results.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

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