The Value of Self-Reflection Practices in Experiential Learning
In volume two of CAEL’s 2015 Forum and News publication, Antioch University Los Angeles’ (AULA) Rosa Garza-Mourino, Director of External Partnerships; MeHee Hyun, Co-Chair of Undergraduate Studies; and Andrea Richards, Dean of Assessment and Student Learning, provided insight into how the adult-focused liberal art institution’s experiential learning program follows an advisement model that “anticipate[s] students’ needs, monitor[s] their progress, and intervene[s] at critical moments.” This model “leads to faculty-intensive interactions with students” which orients students, identifies past and current interests, builds an academic experiential learning proposal, creates reflecting learning products and encourages students to look back at self.
The article, Enhancing Reflective Practice through Experiential Learning Advisement, noted the particular value this model has for experiential learning in the realm of liberal arts, a focus of study that is often questioned in terms of its ability to properly prepare students for future careers. A longtime practitioner of experiential learning, AULA faculty have implemented advising strategies aimed at helping students translate their experiences out of the classroom into course credits. “In fact,” the authors noted, “AULA considers particularly the non-classroom learning activities not only a practical way for adults to apply work experience and shorten their time to degree completion but also an important way to be in the world, helping create deeper understanding and promoting critical thinking.”
Each facet of the model has a focus on students’ reflection. These opportunities for reflection encourage students to consider both past learning experiences and to think about career objectives to come. “Through careful orientation, consistent interaction, and written prompts for student reflective assignments, faculty help students translate their real world experiences into current and prior learning credits, while creating deeper understanding and promoting critical thinking,” the authors noted.
Beyond the students’ benefits to the implementation of reflection practices in experiential learning programs, advisors also benefit from the policies. “[S]tudent reflections  directly inform advising when they highlight what students identify as the missing resources, training, and feedback they need to be successful,” noted the authors. “[…]By looking at student reflections, faculty can see what specific types of guidance students need at various stages of the learning process—perhaps more orientation to the task, deeper analysis of past experiences, better understanding of future goals, or more guidance on how to become reflective practitioners.”
“[Students] may not be aware of the skills, knowledge, and types of engagement that will be the most beneficial in preparing them to be successful in their chosen area,” the authors concluded. “Faculty advisement involves working with students to mine the value of their past and current professional interests and guiding them toward greater self-reflection through a variety of advising strategies.”