Experiential Learning: Action, Reflection, Repetition

Experiential Learning is, as stated on Kent State University’s webpage, “the process of learning by doing” [1]. Through active learning experiences, students are asked to apply theoretical classroom knowledge to real-world situations, and, through this application, students’ academic content is reified and recontextualized, allowing the student to develop in a variety of diverse and useful ways ranging from confidence to teamwork to just broadening perspective. As observed by David Kolb, the scholar behind Experiential Learning, “experiential learning can be defined as a learning process where knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming an experience” [2].

Kolb Experiential Learning Cycle

This process is accomplished through four cyclical steps: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation [3]. The concrete experience is simply a term for whatever real-world activity students participate in, and, depending on course/ instructor goals, this step can take a wide-variety of different forms ranging from field research to internships. Here, students are made to actually apply their knowledge outside of the classroom. This application is followed by reflective observation in which students are asked to look back upon the previous experience and assess where they could improve. Here, students are made to learn actively, examining what did and didn’t work about their previous engagement. In abstract conceptualization, students then take these realizations and use them to develop their approach before, finally, entering active experimentation. At this stage, students re-engage with the experience using their gained knowledge. Then, the full experiential cycle repeats, creating a loop in which students are constantly re-examining and building on prior experiences.

Experiential Learning (EL) Reflection and Reflective Activities

In this process, reflection is of the utmost importance since it provides students with the knowledge necessary to improve their efforts. Reflection is both a step in the process and a capstone to the experience. Within the Experiential Learning cycle, reflection refers to the process by which students gain understanding through re-exposure and reassessment. “Reflection” can also refer to summary activities re-assessing the total experience. At once, “reflection” is both process and destination (though, within the context of Experiential Learning, the circularity of “reflection” deserves note). A successful Experiential Learning implementation possesses both consistent, active reflection and final reflection for assessment purposes/ to encourage students to look at the process in its totality.

Through reflective activities (something both separate from and related to Experiential Learning’s own emphasis on reflection), faculty and students can more clearly see this development [4]. These activities both generate meaningful data for further bolstering the educative content of the activity while also forcing students to “say the quiet part out loud” in terms of their own progress. Through reflective activities, students are made to engage with the experience’s effects on their learning process and outlooks directly rather than simply move on to their next objective. In-class activities formalize the reflection process by mandating that students assess their own growth.

Prompt Overview and Example Student Responses

In the following section, example student reflections and reflection prompts will be shown alongside explications highlighting their value. Here, the intent is to provide both a solid example prompt for future reflective activities while also indicating how students can give constructive responses.


Your job is write at least 6 sentences in response to each one of the following prompts.

Provide a title heading above your response to each prompt as part of this reflection activity.

Prompt #1: Did you develop new understandings of your topic as a result of this activity? What about your values and perspectives? Did this activity challenge your  perspectives? If so, how?

Example Responses:

  1. “I did develop a new understanding of both live sports production and teamwork. I have some experience with live sports production but had not been a Director before. In this position there is a lot of preparation involved such as creating rundowns and receiving timing sheets from the Athletic Department. This preparation changed my perspective about the work ethic of directors at the largest TV networks. I would say this activity did challenge my perspective by learning to communicate with others and learning that some instructions need to be repeated before everyone fully understands. I also believe it helped that I had experience as a Technical Director and Camera Person which allowed me to gain understanding by thinking from a different perspective and communicating my messages more clearly.”- a MDIA 4030 student
  2. “I think that it is one thing to be taught or shown videos on how the machine works, but actually using the machine and going through all the steps is totally different. It really puts into perspective how much work goes into the craft, and makes you appreciate it so much more. I came to understand that it was much more meticulous than I originally thought…”- an ART 3091 Student
  3. “Sometimes I found it hard to fully understand how everything intertwined and affected each other but as the rounds went on, I had a better understanding of how it all worked. So just by observing different changes in our decisions and seeing how they affected our results was one of the best learning tools we had.”- a BUSA 4900 student
  4. “Having an interview with someone who is an expert in the field of study that I wanted do my research on really helped me understand more about the topic in the real world. Mr. Watson was able to answer all my questions, and also explain to me how they applied to him and his work. Being able to see exactly how real people interact with the topic of Parentification was something that changed the way I looked at it, in a way that numbers and graphs could not. I had a new perspective of the emotional challenges that come with the Parentification through this interview process.”-an ENGL 1102H student

Discussion of Prompt 1:

With this prompt, students are asked to reflect on how their topic understanding was altered by their experiential learning experience. Here, the focus is primarily on “what you learned” in the traditional sense rather than the conceptual. Said another way, this prompt focuses on the relationship between the activity and the student’s subject knowledge. Reflections on student growth (outside of content area acquisition) are more in-line with Prompt #3.

Prompt #2: Did you take the initiative for this activity? If so, how? What decision(s) did you make with respect to the activity? How were you held accountable for completing the activity?

Example Responses:

  1. “I believe I did take initiative when directing as well as my social media position. Specifically, the Social Media position. I realized the two shooters were not giving me footage in a timely manner. Because of this I gathered the two and made it clear that the frequency they turned in footage needed to be higher. When creating the social media posts, I sought help from classmates to create better content than I had created. The way I was held accountable for these positions was by the final product. With Directing, the final recording dictated the quality of the job I did. The same goes for social media by seeing if my posts were well received by people viewing the content.”- a MDIA 4400 student
  2. “In those situations I think the initiative is in learning, and asking questions. One such instance was with animation. Although it was one of my main goals going into the course, and I expressed an interest out loud a few times in learning it, I never really jumped on the opportunity to practice and learn much.” – a MDIA 4030 student
  3. “Having those physical limitations and material restrictions made me rethink my design ideas and forced me to be more creative with how I approached my work. I had to think about what I wanted to stand out most within my work and what I could do to fit in the rest, if I wished for it to. I think for any future projects, I will reflect back to this project to remember where I ran into problems and how I could solve them…I definitely took these for granted when creating digitally, but I will work harder to challenge myself in both fields to become a better artist.”- an ART 3091
  4. “I took initiative for this activity by making sure that I was actively looking for someone to interview as well as creating a list of questions that would assist me in adding important information to my research paper. I emailed a couple people and Mr. Watson ended up being the best person for my interview. We had deadlines for the interview to be completed by, as well as assignments about our interview process that needed to be completed by a certain time. We also needed the information quickly so we could start adding it into our research paper. A lot of this process revolved around holding yourself accountable, which I feel like is a very important skill that we need to learn. If you did not get the interview done when you needed it to be done, you would end up falling behind tremendously.”- an MAED 3500 student

Discussion of Prompt 2:

Here, students are asked to reflect on their decision-making process and the lessons acquired through active learning. By reassessing their decision making and the steps they took to engage with the activity, students are encouraged to view their learning process in totality, assessing their proactivity, initiative, and method. Said another way, this prompt focuses primarily on student engagement with and navigation of the concrete learning experience.

Prompt #3: Did you experience growth intellectually, creatively, emotionally, socially, or  physically as a result of this activity? Please explain how this activity helped you to experience this growth? Were there any unexpected challenges or problems? If so, how did you overcome them?

Example Responses:

  1. “My largest growth was intellectually and socially. Intellectually having experienced the process of creating a rundown and seeing what goes into a live sports production gave me great experience, and a better understanding of how a live production is conducted. Socially I feel that I grew through my communication skills. While Directing, communicating when I wanted a specific camera person or graphics person to do something, the communication part took time to flesh out, but I feel much more confident after my second time directing. One challenge I faced was learning a new program in Adobe Express. I overcame this challenge by putting in time to understand the program better and asking lots of questions about the program. I also felt I responded well to constructive criticism and was flexible with changing what I had created for a simpler look.”- a MDIA 4964 student
  2. “Before this course, I saw teamwork as a chore. I always found myself with people who didn’t care about what they needed to do, but the people in this class were all invested in what they were doing in ways I haven’t seen before. It made me realize that teamwork is essential to large scale projects, and that was something I needed to learn for my career goals to be reached.”- a MDIA 4030 student
  3. “During my research I developed a new understanding of hearing impairment and other disabilities and how they affect individuals. This project gave me a new insight and changed my perspective about deafness and how it is portrayed in media. I have gained knowledge from my research that I will carry with me forever. These new gains will help me challenge the status quo on the different stereotypes that deaf and hearing-impaired individuals have to go through.”- a MDIA 4400 student
  4. “I feel like I grew intellectually and emotionally the most during this process. I was able to develop my time management skills when I knew that I was the one responsible for completing all of the parts on time so that I would not fall behind. I also had never done an interview like this before, and I was really nervous, but I’m really glad that I had to do this for my paper. I think it is important to have this kind of experience as an interviewer because it helps you develop your social skills Finding someone to interview proved to be the hardest part for me. I thought at first that I would need to talk to someone in the psychology department, but after some back and forth I figured out that the Department of Human Services would be better for my topic. By actively seeking out the right person do conduct an interview with and having good communication with my professor, I was able to get everything done that I needed to, even if it took me a little longer.”- an ENGL 1102H student

Discussion of Prompt 3

In Prompt 3, students are asked to assess their personal development in relation to the activity. Here, students are encouraged to analyze the way the activity has affected their thought processes, problem solving skills, emotional intelligence, etc. rather than the course material. In putting these developments on paper, students are made to reassess their learning and development while also learning firsthand about relevant field skills.

[1] https://www.kent.edu/community/what-experiential-learning-and-why-it-important#:~:text=Experiential%20Learning%20is%20the%20process,classroom%20to%20real%2Dworld%20situations

[2] https://www.growthengineering.co.uk/kolb-experiential-learning-theory/#:~:text=According%20to%20Kolb%2C%20experiential%20learning,a%20wide%20range%20of%20situations

[3] https://www.bu.edu/ctl/guides/experiential-learning/

[4] https://www.wgu.edu/blog/experiential-learning-theory2006.html