A review of “Conceptualising learning from experience: Developing a model for facilitation”

By: Brook Sattler, PhD
CPREE multi-campus coordinator

In this work, David Boud (1994) offers  a model for supporting students in learning from their experiences. To start, he places particular emphasis on adult learning and learning from experiences versus learning from educators who are the authority figures. This argument lays the groundwork for the importance of supporting students in learning from their experience.

He then provides a quick summary of previous literature on learning from experience (e.g., Schön, Kolb, Jarvis, and Heron) and how it connects to his work, but most importantly the shortcomings of these works: “None of these authors have sufficiently addressed the needs of those confronted with the typically context-specific and personally-embedded learning which characterises the tasks which adults face” (p. 49).

Then he proposes a model for promoting learning from experience that is based two two assumptions: (1) “learning is always rooted in prior experience and that any attempt to promote new learning must in some way take account of that experience” (p. 50) and (2) “the process of learning from experience is necessarily an active one which involves learners in engaging with and intervening in the events of which they are part” (p. 50).

The model focuses on three parts: prior to the event (preparation); during the event (the experience); and following the event (the reflective process). While all of these parts are important in their own right, he pays particular attention to the last one: following the event or the reflective process. In dissecting this part of the model, he emphasizes that reflection includes emotions and feelings and has three parts: return to the experience, attending to feelings, and re-evaluation of the experience. The purpose of returning to the experience is for the individual  to mentally revisit and vividly portray the experience–remember what happened. The purpose of attending to feelings is that it can either inhibit or enhance further reflection (e.g., negative emotions may cause a person to focus only on the negative and inhibit their ability to learn from the experience). Finally, in re-evaluating the experience, Boud (1994) says that there are four aspects of the process: “association—relating new information to that which is already known; integration—seeking relationships between new and old information; validation—determining the authenticity for the learner of the ideas and feelings which have resulted; and appropriation—making knowledge one’s own, a part of one’s normal ways of operating” (p. 52).

Overall, Boud’s work offers another perspective when thinking about how to support students in learning from their experience. On the surface, the model may seem a little complex, but it is those intricate details that Boud starts to tease apart important aspects of reflection, supporting students in reflection, and ultimately in supporting students in learning from their own experience.


Boud, D. (1994). Conceptualising learning from experience: Developing a model for facilitation. Published in Proceedings of the 35th Adult Education Research Conference, 20-22 May 1994, Knoxville, Tennessee: College of Education, University of Tennessee, 49-54.