Marisa Holland Kelley

In a recent eNewsletter, Sallie Weems championed the reflective learning approach in which learners ruminate on past experiences to generate fresh insights that can be applied when learning new ideas. Using this approach creates a deeper and more meaningful learning experience and links directly to the sixth commitment of exemplary leadership: experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from experience.

This technique also is an effective teaching method as "it allows the learner to connect their experiences with the new knowledge that is being introduced." Depending on the environment in which you are working, reflective learning can be used in a variety of ways. In a classroom setting, for example, you may ask learners their thoughts on the purpose of an activity before initiating it. For instance, in the Helium Stick activity (which demonstrates the importance of focusing on a common goal when working on a group project; in this case, participants focus on lowering a simple stick, but it often rises as a result focusing on the rules instead of the ultimate goal), start off by encouraging learners to reflect on a time when their organizational team was focused on following the rules-not on the ultimate goal. Ask them how they think this activity will end, based on their prior experience, and then begin the activity. During the "process check", ask participants to reflect on what they have learned so far from their involvement in this activity before resuming action. Finally, when debriefing the activity, go deep-don't just ask learners how the helium stick was ultimately lowered and how this is similar to their organization. Instead, ask learners to reflect on how they will apply this learning to future experiences. This is called the "before-during-after" technique. Reflective learning can also be practiced by encouraging learners to journal their experiences or through small group discussions.

You can read Weems article in its entirety here

Marisa Holland Kelley is an Assistant Editor on The Leadership Challenge product line at Pfeiffer, an Imprint of Wiley. She can be contacted via e-mail:


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