In the Classroom

Success with an Experiential Learning Cycle in K-12 Classrooms

Knowing the appropriate patterns for an experiential learning cycle is important in making sure it is a successful overall experience. It is less important if you are a seasoned teacher trying to master the cycle or a new teacher looking for some guidance. The trick is making sure that everyone in your school and district uses the same patterns every time.

What we need is a foolproof way of building experiential learning into our classrooms without having to know more than we do about what will be successful for all students each year. We need a common language where teachers across disciplines can use the same learning cycle every time.

We need to teach our students how to build on their experiences; we need them to be able to apply what they have learned in one context to another. We don’t want them starting out each new project, experiment, or experience like it is the first of its kind.

We all understand the importance of the four phases of learning: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. We all know that students need to be involved in each phase before moving on to the next.

These are the life skills our students need to be successful in the world that awaits them.

Success with an Experiential Learning Cycle in K-12 Classrooms

The Stages of the Experiential Learning Cycle

A successful experiential learning cycle requires a lot of preparation before an activity actually begins. If each stage is not completed properly, the overall task will not be as effective as it could be which means that students can learn less from this experience or it may even be a waste of time.

Before engaging in an experiential learning cycle, it is important to know what the task entails and why this is supposed to be educational. For example, if students are asked to plant a garden they need to know that there will be some things involved such as hard work, patience, and problem-solving skills while also knowing that the end goal is to produce food.

At the beginning of an experiential learning cycle, there is a lot of planning and preparation. For example, when planning for a garden to grow vegetables, it is important to have the right materials needed for this task such as seeds, soil, and water. In order for all these things to happen, one has to learn how they work together in the best way. This is done through experiential learning. After all of these things are gathered, one can start to plant the seeds and begin growing vegetables.

Another important stage in the experiential learning cycle is reflection; this is where we take a step back and think about what we have done and how we can improve our future experiences. If there isn’t time for students to reflect, then it will not be as effective because they won’t fully understand their actions or how they can learn from them.

The last stage in the experiential learning cycle is evaluation; this means that we take what we have learned and determine if it was successful. When students look back on their experiences, they can see what worked well and didn’t work so well for them which helps to guide the next stages of learning. If students don’t properly review what they accomplished, then it will not be as useful because there may be things that they could have done differently or better.

Some activities require more than one stage in the experiential learning cycle in order for them to fully develop. For example, Roses evolve over a period of time throughout this process; the roots, stem, and buds will all develop at different points in time. Following the cycle of a rose through experiential learning means that there is a lot of patience involved but when it reaches the full blooming stage, it is very rewarding.

Success in the Experiential Learning Cycle

In order to have an effective experiential learning cycle activity, students have to go through self-directed learning. They are responsible for their own learning which means that they have to know what is expected of them in this task, even if there isn’t a set directive laid out by someone else. This is different from other types of learning where there is more guidance involved.

Self-directed learning also leads to metacognition because students are paying attention to their own learning, including what they know and don’t know. They also pay attention to which strategies work best for them when learning about a particular topic.

The end of an experiential learning cycle is only the beginning of something new. There is not an absolute ending point because it is ongoing throughout the process. In order for an experiential learning cycle to be effective, it is important that this process repeats itself; we end and then we begin again. This will create a strong foundation and knowledge in the topic area and help students to continuously learn and build on what they already know.

At this moment, there is a lot of reflection. Students think about their experiences and share what they have learned with others. This is known as reflective thinking, which focuses on the process by which someone learns instead of just on what they have learned.

Reviewing past experiences also helps to gain new knowledge through connections made between similar situations. It can help students to understand how they have grown and developed over a period of time.

All of this combined is why this model is so successful. It helps our students learn on a deeper level. They get a chance to be more engaged and they become active learners. They also have the opportunity to practice different types of thinking within a particular subject. This will allow them to think critically and not just follow what is presented in class. The goal is for students to become self-directed learners so they can be lifelong learners.

The experiential learning cycle is successful in helping students learn because it allows them to work through the entire cycle themselves. The more practice involved, the better they get at it and the more knowledge they acquire.

The experiential learning cycle is a really effective model for students to learn from because of how active it is compared to other models that are on the more passive side. Self-directed learning allows them to go through the entire cycle on their own, which is what it means to be an active learner. This gives them a lot of power over their own learning and helps them to take control of their thinking. They also work through this process multiple times so they can continue to learn and grow.

The experiential learning cycle is successful because it goes beyond just teaching students to memorize information. Instead, they learn to take that knowledge and use it in a way that makes sense for them because that is how they can really understand the information.

Why Implementing an Experiential Learning Cycle is So Important

Although writing is a very effective way of learning and processing information, the majority of teachers still use lectures in their classes instead of engaging in more experiential learning strategies. This includes talking to students, writing on a board or on paper, and even reading out lectures that may have been written by someone else.

An experiential learning cycle is more engaging than the traditional teaching methods because of the different ways of thinking it requires of students. It helps them to develop their creativity which leads to finding new solutions for problems they might be facing in the future.

The cycle of learning is also much more personal; by allowing students to work on their own, they will feel more invested and interested in what they are doing. It aligns with the idea of personalized learning because it gives everyone a chance to develop at their own individual pace and in ways that make sense for them.

Experiential learning also creates ownership in the classroom. When students are actively involved with their own experiences, they are able to form connections that benefit them which helps them to stick with it for the long term.

It is important that there be a balance between thinking and doing during an experiential learning cycle because this will combine both sides of the brain. By activating both sides, students will be able to better process information and retain it for a longer period of time.

A balance between active learning experiences and reflection is also very important within an experiential learning cycle because this will allow students to incorporate what they have learned into their long-term memory. This way, it isn’t just used at the moment but is applied in future scenarios.

The experiential learning cycle will create lifelong learners by encouraging students to reflect upon their experiences, share what they have learned with others, and continuously seek out new knowledge.

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After moving from a teacher-dominated classroom to a truly student-centered one, Jenn found herself helping colleagues who wanted to follow her lead.  In 2018 she decided to expand outside of her school walls and help those out there who were also trying to figure out this fantastic method of instruction to ignite intrinsic motivation in their students.  Read more about her journey with Student-Centered World at

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