Learning from Experience

In an early section, Create Learning Challenges, I shared building a bench for my farmhouse table. During this process, I recorded my experience: directions, tips, tools needed and then when it was over, I spent some time with my learning journal and recorded what I learned from the experience.

Learning from Experience

Learning from experiences can be just as valuable if not more so. Learning doesn’t have to come from only your experiences, though. Learning can occur from watching others. (How did you learn not to touch the hot burner on the stove? Did you touch one or see someone else do it? I learned that lesson from watching someone else tough a hot burner. Or how did you learn to not put anything into a socket?) Take a few moments to record what you learn from some experiences in your life.

Ostermann & Kottkamp (2004) entitle this a reflective practice on experiences which can occur after an event or even during an event. However, Wilson (2008) provides that although reflection-on-action is designed to help individuals learn from their experiences, there is great evidence that there is a limited opportunity to do so as many people complain of heavy workloads and too little time to contemplate a situation more than a few moments. Whereas Greenwood (1998) determines that reflection-on-action does not need to be riddled with such hindrances as practitioners follow the basic steps to recapture as many details as possible, including folding in the emotions and feelings of the situation, taking time after an experience to ponder.

It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.

~Leonardo Da Vinci

Reflection-in-action is even more difficult as it is completed during an experience. Many times this type of reflective practice is brought during a situation. It guides the immediate present and is often thought of as thinking on one’s feet. It does require the practitioner to be objective while taking an emotional step away from the situation to consider the contributions to the experience. It is simply thinking of what one is doing while it is occurring (Greenwood, 1998; Wilson, 2008).

The Art of Learning Journals
Click on image for The Art of Learning Journals.


Greenwood, J. (1998). The role of reflection in single and double loop learning. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 27, 1048-1053.

Osterman, K. & Kottkamp, R. (2004). Reflective practice for educators: Professional development to improve student learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Wilson, J. (2008). Reflecting-on-the-future: a chronological consideration of reflective practice.  Reflective Practice, 9(2), 177-184.

By Tracy Atkinson

Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners. She has published several titles, including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the mid-west with her husband. She loved storytelling and sharing her stories with her children. As they grew, she started writing her stories down for them. She is a teacher, having taught from elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, masters in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. Her husband, Kerry and Tracy breed miniature dachshunds and love to spend time with their growing family. She has published several books including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel's 8 and Securing Your Tent.

%d bloggers like this: