An Experiential Learning Essays

How to Write an Experiential Essay

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Experience is the collective name which we give to all our personal feelings, thoughts, emotions, situations; in short, experience is life as we participate in it. Experiential essays deal with personal experiences which have to be clearly elucidated and reflected upon. If you are assigned to write an experiential essay, here are some tips you can use.

How to write an experiential essay – 6 essential tips

1. Definition of experiential essay

Experiential essays are much different from other types of essays, such as descriptive or argumentative essays. An experiential essay refers directly to your own experience, without employing academic citations or any other kind of references. What is more, you do not need to read a lot on the topic before starting the process of writing. All you need to do is to formulate your topic, to recall a given experience, and to attempt at reflecting on it. In some sense it is good that you are not required to build a theoretical framework for your essay; on the other hand, though, you are in the dark, you have to be creative, use your imagination, and at the same time be able to describe and reflect on your experience in a very logical, precisely formulated manner. Hence, imagination and logic always walk hand in hand when it comes to writing experiential essays.

2. Learning

Basically, every piece of text one writes is a kind of learning. One learns about him/herself, one's own feelings, attitudes and values, and so forth. The experiential essay is more special because it is focused entirely on your own experiences. It helps you to learn more about yourself and reflect more on the given experience you want to describe. You should not think that an experiential essay is written to prove writing skills. It is rather a form of learning which will put you in a position to be aware of more about your strengths, weaknesses, habits, etc. And because of the fact that no one lives in isolation from the society, you also learn about your relations with other members of your society.

3. The model of David Kolb

David Kolb has elaborated a model of experiential learning. It consists of four main parts which you should include in your essay: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. We advise you to employ this model, for it will make your experiential essay coherent and well-organized.

The first part of the model concerns your own experience. You should be able to answer questions regarding what happened, how, when and where, what you have felt or thought, what was your reaction to it, etc. Keep in mind that you should not merely write everything coming to your mind (like a stream of thoughts, feelings and associations), but you rather need to answer these questions in brief - in three or four sentences.

The second part concerns reflection on your experience. You need to explain, for instance, how you behaved and why, and what were the consequences of your behavior. The conceptualization part requires formulating a few basic concepts which cover your experience. This is the tool which allows you to render more objectively what you have experienced as a person (for, no one would be able to understand your description without referring to objective concepts). The last part deals with experimentation - from what you have learned by now (from the concrete experience), what can you do in practice? Can you apply this knowledge?

4. Topic formulation

There are plenty of topics you can deal with. It is advisable to refer to an experience which has had strong influence on you: a romantic story, a situation which brought about an important change in your life, a painful or pleasant situation. You can formulate it in short as follows: "My first day as a teacher."

5. Language and style

There is no need to say that you have to use standard English at a very high level; that means employing terminology related to the field covering your experience. It is also important to use complex, long sentences, in order to prove you master the language and have perfect writing skills. Another important thing to mention is the use of "I"-person, that is, to speak only from your own point of view, and not from someone else's. It is not important what Peter or Mary has said about your experiences: the experiential essay covers only your own experience and reflections on it.

6. Don’ts when writing an experiential essay

  • Do not write in an emotional manner - sentences like "I felt very sad and desperate" are not seen well by the reader. You are not writing a diary!

  • Do not refer to academic conceptions and theories - this is not a research paper!

  • Do not add new experiences and ideas later in your experiential essay. You should focus on only one experience and write only about it!

  • Do not merely describe!

  • Do not write about the experience of other people! Do not report their experiences, only your own is important!

7. Revise carefully

Once you have written your experiential essay, you need to check the following things: grammar and spelling; style; coherence and internal logic (there should be only one idea developed throughout the essay). If you are not sure in your proofreading competence, ask someone else to do it for you. Do not forget to consult your instructor any time when you have questions regarding the essay.

Experiential Essay Sample

My First Day As a Teacher

I have always wanted to be a teacher of Science. After graduation I got my dream job. Finally, after long waiting I went to my workplace - a high-school in the town of X. I met all my future students and their parents for the first time, which was a very exciting experience for me. The day passed slowly; in the beginning I did not know what to do and what to say, but the good attitude of the people towards me made me speak more and be more talkative. I still remember that moment when a colleague of mine came up to me and said: “If you need some advice, come to me, I will help you out.” The days after I started thinking about my first day as a teacher.

The experience was new to me. I thought I had a certain prospect in my life and I was ready to walk on this road, without knowing what stands at its end. The feeling to be a teacher is strange, especially when you are very young and your age is not quite different from the age of your students. For that reason I felt so strange during my first day as a teacher but my attitude and behavior changed later and I became more confident.

Teacher's profession is difficult in itself but it gives a lot of opportunities to know yourself and also to pass your own values and worldview to people who are younger than you. It is full of tensions, unpleasant moments, but it also makes you feel proud of yourself. And the most important thing is that you always get recognition from the others for the things you have done. The beginning is always hard, but then the nice moments come.

For the next school year I will prepare a special show with my students to show how one day of teacher's life looks like. My experience referred to above helped me realize different sides of teacher's profession. I want to be more talkative, because this will improve my work as a teacher, and preparing such an activity will help me a lot.

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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.

Concrete Experience

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.

Reflective Observation

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.

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