According to prevailing models, experiential learning is by definition a stepwise process beginning with direct experience, followed by reflection, followed by learning. It has been argued, however, that stepwise models inadequately explain the holistic learning processes that are central to learning from experience, and that they lack scientific or philosophical foundations. Criticism also centers on the way complex cultural, social, and physical processes during experience and learning are reduced to a rational, excessively cognitive, individual phenomenon. This article reviews this criticism and adds a historical dimension to the analysis, concluding that existing cyclic models might be better valued for their important historical contribution, rather than as active theories of learning in experiential education.

Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Experiential Education



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Document Type



Seaman, J. Experience, reflect, critique: The end of the ‘learning cycles’ era. Journal of Experiential Education. 31(1), 3-18. Copyright 2008, SAGE Publications. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.