The Art of Reflection

By Brandie VanOrder

#JLTraining #Leadership #Life #League #Reflection
Published: March 14, 2016

How many times have you been asked the question, “what did you learn from X?” That X could be community service, a Junior League leadership role, a work conference, or a home improvement project you completed.

We know we learned something… but how do we explain it?

According to educational theorist David Kolb, learning from our experiences is a four-stage cycle. Having a meaningful experience is only stage one, yet we often don’t go any farther than that.

The four stages in the cycle are briefly explained below. Challenge yourself to take a moment to think through the stages of this cycle in a journal entry or a conversation with a friend and reflect on an important experience you have had recently! (Hint: that important experience could be your role in JLT this year…!)

Stage one is the Concrete Experience, which literally means having the experience.

Stage two is Reflective Observation. This is where you review what has happened and reflect on the experience. Think about questions like, what was the most difficult part of the experience? What was easiest? Why? How did I work with others? What was my greatest contribution?

Stage three is Abstract Conceptualization. This sounds a bit more complicated, but it just means that you are drawing conclusions and figuring out what you have learned. Try to answer questions like, What did I learn about myself from this? How does this connect to my previous experiences?

Finally, stage four is Active Experimentation. This is where you plan and test out what you have learned! What do you know now that you can use in the future? How does this relate to your future career or personal aspirations? Who can you thank for their role in this experience?

Consider this your challenge to take a moment to walk through these steps in a journal entry or conversation with a friend and reflect on an important experience you have had recently!


Brandie VanOrder is finishing her New Member year in the Junior League and currently works at the University of Arizona in Leadership Programs. She has a Master of Education in Higher Education Administration from Vanderbilt University and a Bachelor’s in Political Science from Boise State University. In her free time she enjoys swimming, hiking Sabino Canyon or Tumamoc Hill and exploring Tucson with her boyfriend.