Critical Reflection as Catalyst to Unlock the Power of Experiential Learning
Riaan de Coning, National School of Government (South Africa)
Experiential learning is widely accepted as a teaching methodology which aids the transfer of learning. It is however also a fact that the transfer of learning remains elusive. The aim of the research study was to explore the nature and extent of reflective practices by students on a Coaching Master’s programme at a South African University. The specific focus was to determine the perceived value of these reflective practices on the learning journey of the student. The data sources were semi-structured interviews as well as the summative reflective essays of students who formed part of the programme. A phenomenological interpretive approach was used to analyse the data and to extract the meaning of students as it pertains to the stated research objectives. When asked to report on the perceived value of reflection, students reported numerous programme related areas which subsume both emotional and practical skill aspects. It was found that reflection heightened the conscious awareness related to a wide variety of students’ coaching experiences, thereby enabling students to contemplate new coaching behaviours. The reported behaviour changes covered a wide array of coaching related aspects which range from improved pre-coaching activities, improved coaching practice as well as improvements in coaching results for clients. These findings highlight the transformational influence of reflective practice when it is embedded in an experiential learning programme.