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2.14 Experiential Learning Cycle (ExLC) — How to Design & Use

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2.14 Experiential Learning Cycle (ExLC) – How to Design and Use

After setting objectives, the experiential learning cycle follows a series of phases as illustrated in the graphic below. While each phase may be in sequence, at times you may find that the learner is ready for a later sequence before a previous one (The learner is ready to apply the information before he or she is ready to share). You may also find that you repeat the sequence several times during a workshop or presentation.

In a typical adult education experience, the Lecturette and handouts are used to provide participants with data – the experiencing phase of ExLC. Then participants are given an opportunity to work/play with that data. This is the small group and individual activities and makes up the publishing/processing phase of ExLC. Finally, groups present their experiences back to the large group, where the adult learning facilitator completes the ExLC by asking questions of the entire group to help everyone generalize and apply the information just learned. This full cycle can be used on each and every objective, as well as on the course as a whole. Providing adults with a variety of ways to learn is a major focus of adult learning.


You have established goals and objectives for your seminar, workshop, or course. You must determine how to present them to your audience at this time.

If you are presenting in an informal environment, you may wish to just mention them as part of your introduction. You can casually say
"In the next hour, you will begin to understand the experiential learning cycle and how it can apply to your workshops".

If the course or workshop is for CEU’s, then the objectives should be in writing and given as part of the handouts at the beginning of the program.
"By the completion of this on-line course, the learner will be able to
facilitate their course participants through a 5 step cycle of learning that results in their learners being able to “take home” and apply the information in ways that improve their lives and the lives of those around them."

In either case, all you have done so far is to tell the audience what you think they will learn. It is also important to find out why your participant is there, why did they come to the course and what do they want to accomplish. Depending on the size of the group, you may simply ask them "Why are you here? What do you want to get out of the time we spend together?"

Then respond to a few volunteers from the audience who will speak up and tell you what they want. Your response to their responses may be a bit tricky at times. When in doubt, refer back to the objectives saying "That’s a good point, and we will be addressing it when we talk about… " or
"Wonderful idea, let’s keep it in mind as we go through today and see if we can’t meet that need"


This portion of your workshop is all up to you. It’s actually the only portion of the experiential learning cycle that gets used by everyone in every workshop. This is the lecture, and the presentation of material and subject matter. What you say provides examinable material in the "here and now" and generate "data" for learners to discuss and apply. You may also use self-tests, surveys, simulations, and other activities to generate data – to give your participants something to think about and work with.

NOTE: I have one pet peeve about this portion of a workshop. Above all means, when presenting information, DO NOT FILL EMPTY SPACES WITH "UMMM". When speaking, allow silent space between your sentences. Say
"Today we are going to talk about my work in energy. We will begin with looking at body/mind energy fields. We will move on to specific parts of the body that tend to hold emotional energy."

DO NOT SAY "Today, UMM, we are going to talk about my UMM work in energy. UMMM We will being today by looking at UMMM body/mind energy fields. UMMM. We will move on to UMM specific parts of the body that tend to UMMM hold emotional energy".

To find out if you are an UMMer or not, record yourself the next time you make a speech or presentation and just listen to yourself. Remind yourself that silence between thoughts is OK. Silence is much, much more preferable than constant UMMing. In my book anyway -UMM


This is the initial question and answer period after you have presented your information. You want to know immediately how your audience is reacting to what you are saying or doing. You are providing time here for reflections/reactions to the experiences and opportunities for learners to internalize activity/data

Questions to ask the audience now include:

  • what just went on / what happened?
  • what did you observe?
  • what are/were your feelings, reactions?
  • what did you attend to most? least? during the experience

NOTE: The questions I am providing are samples, to give you direction. You may use them literally, or modify them to your subject. The more you modify the questions, the smoother your interaction with your audience/participants/learners. An example is
"What are you thinking about right now as you consider how to "publish" or "share" with your audience in this portion of the learning cycle"

ADDITIONAL NOTE: All the questions we are going to be using are open-ended. That is, they are not yes and no, but require some additional response.
Avoid getting into a rut by asking repeatedly questions like
"Are you with me so far?" or "Is this clear? or the inevitable "Do you know what I mean? or "Do you hear what I’m saying?"

PROCESSING (always in terms of the learning objective)

Now we enter the world where very few presenters go. That is, to make a special connection between the material presented and the learning objective. Believe it or not, many people in your audience, after hearing the presentation, will actually forget why they are there and what they want to accomplish. It’s up to you to remind them!


  • provides focus for the learning
  • highlights learnings in terms of the objectives
  • determines meanings
  • facilitates personal insight in relation to the learning objective

Questions to ask the audience include:

  • what are the implications of (published content)… in terms of (learning objective)…
  • how does this activity "fit together" with the objective?
  • what does this experience say to you about (learning objective)

"If the body is truly biomagnetic and has negative and positive poles, then what does that mean in terms of where you place your hands during a Polarity session?"
The objective this question refers to is "Identify the major positive, negative, and neutral poles on the body."


Now that you’ve presented your information and you know that your learners also have a grasp on what you are saying, the next question is "So What?"

Here you are helping your learners to:

  • establishes implications of learnings – what this new information means in light of their previous knowledge
  • broadens context of learning – the kind of things that can be done with these new skills and information

Questions to ask the audience here include:

  • what does this mean outside of this room?
  • how do you see this information acting in a larger context
  • what principles/rules do you see operating?
  • what does that help to explain?
  • how does this relate to other experiences?
  • what is true "out there" based on what we experienced here
  • make up a sentence that states the learning

EXAMPLE: " If energy travels from positive to negative poles, and your right hand is positive and your left hand is negative, then, if you want to help a person ground their energy (run the energy downward between your hands), would your left hand be above or below the right when placing it on the body?

APPLYING (now what?)

Finally it is up to you as the facilitator to establish future learner action and a link to practical reality. This is the "how to use this in your real life" stage of the learning.

Questions to ask now include:

  • If our generalizations are true, how can we use them… ?
  • next time, I will…
  • If… then…
  • what are your options now?
  • what might you do to help yourself at home?
  • what would be the consequences of doing/not doing that?
  • what modifications can you make work for you?
  • what does this say about how you want to be in the real world
  • what would you like to remind yourself of?
  • what will you do differently Monday morning?

"Before you go, write down three things you will do differently next week based on the ideas you learned today in this workshop"

Be sure to take the Self Test at the top of the page before proceeding to your next unit,2.15 Facilitation Questions for the Experiential Learning Cycle

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