Experiential education describes a didactic model which is based on the assumption that only a direct and practical examination of the learning content allows for a effective and meaningful learning. In this concept the learner takes the centre stage. David Kolb’s ‘Experiential Learning Cycle’ is a concept within this approach which describes the ideal relation between experience and future action. According to this model learning is a circular process with the subsequent elements: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation.
This essay is aimed at reflecting my personal process of learning, acquisition of skills and career development in a specific learning situation that I experienced throughout the unit ‘Human Resource Development’ (HRD) during Semester 2, 2009 at Swinburne University of Technology. It follows the elements of the Experiental Learning Cycle in order to evaluate my ideas and learn about further actions.
I met my facilitation partner Andrew in front of the library for our first meeting. Since it was a windy and cool day he suggested to look for a warmer place where we could discuss our ideas. I agreed and followed him to an empty class room in the EN-Building where we sat at a table together. I did not really feel warmer in there but I did not want to complain either. Andrew started to pull his laptop out of a bag which seemed to me to take hours. There was an awkward silence in the room. The sound of the booted up laptop was a relief for me because it was the sign that we could actually begin with our work. We started to brainstorm different topics which were eligible for our facilitation session. Andrew described all of his ideas in detail and he used a lot of English or specific Australian expressions I did not know. I asked a few times “Sorry, could explain that to me?”. He always answered, “Sure. No worries.”, and tried to use other words to explain his thoughts to me. But nonetheless, I did not want to ask him every single time I did not know a word because I thought he might be annoyed.
After having collected a few ideas on a sheet of paper, we went over the list again in order to make a decision for a topic. For me it seemed clear that we were going to pick the “Behavioral Interview” topic but Andrew wanted to evaluate all the other ideas as well. That was why we balanced a few reasons for and against various themes and we both expressed our personal opinion. But whereas I always clearly stated which idea I like and which one not, I did not really understand Andrew’s point of view because he found positive aspects about every single topic. I felt like this discussion would lead to nowhere. After a while I said “In order to start with an acutal session plan, we should make a decision soon.” Although he seemed a bit irritated he agreed and we finally worked out to pick the “Behavioural Interview” topic. I had a look on my watch and noticed that I had to go to a class in five minutes. I suddenly felt stressed and uneasy because of that time pressure. Andrew noticed my look and I explained the situation to him. We decided to collect quickly some tasks that had to be done for the facilitation session and divided these tasks. After that we arranged another meeting for the following week and then I had to hurry up to my other class leaving Andrew behind in the room.
In thinking back on the meeting, I started to realize to what extent my behaviour and reactions had an impact on this situation. Due to the fact that I was feeling cold in our meeting room I did not take off my jacket and fold my arms around myself. For Andrew this type of body language probably looked like I would be uneased or introverted. In addition I did not bring my laptop with me which might have also seem to him like I am uninterested or I do not want to play a part in our meeting.
I also considered my discomfort concerning the language barrier to have an influence on the meeting. Resulting from that I lost the plot several times during our conversation which is why I could not give Andrew appropriate feedback to everything he said. Moreover, I think that our discussion was heavily influenced by our different way of decision making and accordingly by our manner to express our personal opinion. Maybe I was a little bit too brisk in bringing our meeting forth? Should I have given Andrew some more time to think about his personal view instead of calling for a fast decision? In thinking back of the situation, I really feel like our communication was disturbed at that moment. In addition to that I feel like my lack of time at the end of the meeting caused even more discrepancy. Since I did not tell Andrew in advance that I had a class immediately after our meeting he was most likely surprised about my sudden rush. It might have been better for our group work to leave the room together or even go and have a coffee together so that we could get to know each other on a more personal basis.
What is Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model?
According to Kolb, “Knowledge results from the combination of grasping experience and transforming it.” In his model, there are four distinct segments to learning:
- Description of Concrete experience
- Testing and Application
Applying Kolb’s Model to Your Essay
When you write your experiential essay, you are required to use each of Kolb’s four steps to describe each of the required subtopics. For instance, if you have developed a nutrition or health plan with your health care provider, and have maintained that health plan, you may want to write the essay on “Human Nutrition and Health”. You must address these three subtopics in your 3,000 to 4,500 word essay:
- Subtopic 1: Explain the physiological role of protein, fat, and carbohydrates in maintaining health.
- Subtopic 2: Explore the physiological role of vitamins and minerals in disease prevention.
- Subtopic 3: Discuss major nutritional guidelines to decrease heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis.
- Subtopic 4: Analyze modifications from national recommended guidelines you have made in your diet and the rationale for those modifications.
- Subtopic 5: Explore challenges US citizens encounter in attaining sound nutrition.
- Subtopic 6: Discuss current fad diets and the hazards they bring to overall health and wellness.
In subtopic 1, you must address each of Kolb’s points:
- Description of Concrete Experience: discuss your experiences with the way your body reacts to specific types of foods, namely proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, and how these contribute to your overall health.
- Reflections: describe your feelings about your experiences and how your thoughts, attitudes and observations developed through the reflective process. For instance, as you experimented with different foods, how did your thoughts change about your nutrition plan? Did you grow to like foods that you didn’t like before? Explain.
- Generalizations, Principles and Theories: explain specific theories and principles of the physiology of proteins, carbohydrates and fats and how they support your knowledge of the topic in the area of nutrition and health. Discuss what your health care provider explained to you about this topic.
- Testing and Application: discuss how you tested the theories about protein, carbohydrates and fat. Did applying a particular principle bring about the desired outcome? Why or why not? You can add more to this discussion by writing about how more recent experiences have impacted your generalizations, principles and theories.
Get credit for your knowledge
Speak to your academic counselor to identify your credit deficiencies. Then, check the PLA-approved topics and see if there are subjects that match your areas of expertise, and whether you are eligible to write an essay to fulfill a credit requirement. You can earn up to 30 credits through experiential essays if you’re working toward a bachelor’s degree, or 15 credits if you’re working toward an associate’s degree. Additional state restrictions may apply.
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