Learn to reflect on what you do to get full value from your experiences

February 23, 2015 by Tina Žagar

We have a number of phrases to indicate the differences between things and expressions. As different as chalk and cheese or as different as day and night are commonplace in everyday language. But how often do we take into a consideration this point that we as people are different and therefore also learn in a different way.

Different learning theories by Beverly Wenger-Trayner

Different learning theories by Beverly Wenger-Trayner

Think back to your university days. Most likely you came across a very charismatic and passionate professor who could hold your attention for any period of time and perhaps even inspired your future actions. Most of us, at the same time, also had to attend lectures that were ever so difficult to sit through attentively. Typically it was a class where a professor was trying to cover too much material in too short time and engaged very little with the audience. But have you ever stopped and reflected on why you have found a particular moment (be it a lecture, workshop or online course) useful and enjoyable? What were the specific elements that made a learning experience unique and meaningful for you? Or, equally importantly, have you ever asked yourself why some learning experiences have carried little, if any, meaning for you?

We often do not take time to reflect on these issues. I certainly did not until I attended a training course on facilitation where at some point we were asked to individually articulate our own theory of learning and how it manifests in our approach to learning and helping others to learn. It made me think and I described my understanding of the meaning of learning through a picture of a lace. You may wonder why but just like making a lace involves weaving together threads that then form intricate web-like patterns, learning to me is a crossroad of different ideas, views and experiences. It interlaces different perspectives that can lead to new discoveries or improve existing knowledge, resulting in a meaningful whole.

At the same training course we were also advised to keep a learning journal to reflect on our learning experiences and to note down key takeaways. Even though back then I saw it as a somewhat time consuming exercise, I know recognize its added value and appreciate the effort that I have put into it. It is a very handy way of keeping track of how and why you did what you did at a certain point in time. For me it has become a very useful and informative record of the lessons I have learned, and I often browse it to refresh my memory.

So, next time you come home from a learning event, please consider taking time to reflect on these important aspects that can help you understand your own strengths and weaknesses as a learner, your preferred learning mode and elements that drive your learning. You may be surprised how such a reflection exercise can help you uncover or create knowledge and maximize your learning.


Note: The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the CEF.