Brescia University

Experiential Learning



“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn”. Benjamin Franklin

Experiential Education (EE) is the broader institutional philosophy and practice that guides our work in developing practical, structured and meaningful learning experiences.

Experiential Education was built from Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory (Kolb, 1984) and is represented by a four-stage learning cycle in which the learner goes through “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” (Kolb, 1984, p.38). The four-stage learning cycle includes Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualization and Active Experimentation. Effective learning happens when one progresses through the four-stage cycle. It is possible to enter into the learning cycle at any stage. However, to be effective, students must go through and achieve each stage of the cycle.

Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory Four-Stage Cycle

kolb's theory cycle

*Figure adapted from Kolb's Experiential Learning (1984).

Concrete Experience
A student has an experience, whether it is a new experience or a reimagined experience.
Reflective Observation
A student is able to reflect on their experience.
Abstract Conceptualization
Reflecting on one’s experience leads to the student analyzing and drawing conclusions about what they have learned.
Active Experimentation
The student then applies what they have learned to a real world experience.

To learn more about Kolb’s Theory, please visit the following references:

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the course of learning and development (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Kolb, A. Y. & Kolb, D. A. (2013). Kolb's Learning Style Inventory 4.0. Experience Based Learning Systems Inc.

Experiential Learning (EL) is defined as the specific techniques or mechanisms that an individual can implement to acquire or meet learning goals (Roberts, 2012). EL refers to learning-specific categories of the experience types or when discussing students in the learning process.

Brescia's Definition and Practices for Experiential Learning 

At Brescia, we have developed a definition and set of practices for Experiential Learning that were adapted from the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) and tailored to our mission, vision and values.

Brescia's Experiential Learning Definition

Experiential learning, in combination with reflection1 or critically reflexive practice2, is a pedagogy that bridges theoretical and conceptual learning with practice-based experiences across multiple disciplines and settings and inside or outside of the classroom. Experiential learning empowers Brescia students to “learn by doing”; apply and further develop practical and employment-related skills; and transform and enrich, their knowledge through meaningful experiences. Through active engagement in their communities, Brescia students develop their identities as women leaders; make meaningful contributions to their communities; collaborate with faculty, staff and community partners3; and lead with wisdom, justice, and compassion in a changing world.

Brescia's Experiential Learning Practices 

Kolb's Learning Cycle, Brescia Competencies and Learning Outcomes
Experiential learning is built on Kolb’s Learning Cycle and supported by the Brescia competencies and curricular and co-curricular learning outcomes
Graded Reflection or Critically Reflexive Practice
Experiential learning occurs when thoughtfully-chosen experiences are supported by graded reflection or critically reflexive practice assessments
Intentionally Structured Experiences
Experiences are intentionally structured so that students take the initiative and are accountable to themselves, Brescia, and any collaborating communities with whom we partner
Actively Engaged Students
Throughout the experiential learning process, the student is actively engaged in being curious, asking questions, using problem-solving skills, assuming responsibility, being creative, and constructing meaning
Developing connections among students, community partners and Faculty/Staff
At Brescia, we aim to develop connections among students, community partners3, and faculty/staff of Brescia (as applicable to Schools across Brescia). All work together to develop learning outcomes and create meaningful experiences to meet those outcomes
Community Partner Role
When community partners3 are involved in Experiential Learning placements for students, they will have a role to ensure we match the Brescia student who best meets organizational and community needs and students’ learning outcomes (as applicable to Schools across Brescia)

*Definition and practices adapted with permission from the Association for Experiential Education (AEE).

Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Guiding Principles for Experiential Learning 

The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) established principles of Experiential Learning to help students obtain access to work-related experiences prior to graduation. MTCU want every student to have at least one Experiential Learning experience before they graduate. Below are the six MTCU guiding principles and how they are applied at Brescia. For an experience to count as Experiential Learning, you must meet all six principles.

Ministry of Education’s guiding principles for Experiential Learning How the Ministry guiding principles for student experiences will be applied at Brescia
The student is in a workplace or simulated workplace ^ Allow for the application of learned knowledge and skills to a work environment, an environment that simulates a workplace or activities that students would encounter in a work environment.
The student is exposed to authentic demands that improve their employability, interpersonal skills, and transition to the workforce ^ Students will engage in experiences that will enhance their interpersonal and professional skills for career planning and future employment.
The experience is structured with purposeful and meaningful activities ^ Experiences will be meaningful to the   student
^ Experiences will be structured with Faculty and Community Partner (where applicable) supervision.
^ Experiences will meet student learning outcomes.
The student applies university or college program knowledge and/or essential employability skills ^ Students will apply theoretical and conceptual learning within practice-based settings.
The experience includes student self-assessment and evaluation of the students’ performance and learning outcomes by the employer and/or university/college ^ Students will engage in grade reflection or critical reflexive practice.
^ Students will be evaluated by the Faculty and Community Partner (where applicable).
The experience counts towards course credit or credential completion OR is formally recognized by the college or university as meeting the five criteria above ^ Students will receive recognition for their experiential learning experience for their curricular (credit) or co-curricular (non-credit) record.
1 Reflection refers to "... a conscious activity in which we engage to explore our experiences and develop new understandings and conceptualisations" (Boud 1987).
2 Critically reflexive practice refers to “subjective understandings of reality as a basis for thinking more critically about the impact of our assumptions, values, and actions on others” (Cunliffe, 2004, p. 407).
3 At Brescia, we use the umbrella term “Community Partners” as an all encompassing term which includes the diverse organizations, businesses, government and academic institutions that we partner with.