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Reflection and Lifelong Learning

Albert Einstein has been credited with saying, “It is not that I'm so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.” As a writing instructor and graduate student, I have often considered what drives someone to be a lifelong learner. It is my hope that students will transfer into post-graduation situations with skills and a desire to “stay with the questions”. In in my own life, I seek to be engaged in conscious life-long learning, but I haven’t always known how to engage with experiences in constructive ways. During my time at BYU, I have come to learn that three components can help lead to continual growth.

  1. Vulnerability
  2. Curiosity
  3. Reflection

By encouraging students to integrate vulnerability, curiosity, and reflection into their own lives they may come to recognize the value of being intentional in their own lifelong learning pursuits. Experiential learning opportunities are ideal grounds for cultivating these abilities.


Experiential learning such as study-abroad, or internships require vulnerability. Student’s and instructor’s willingness to open themselves up to new places, ideas, and people will help with eliminating cognitive dissonance. When we are vulnerable, we are open to constructive criticism, and are more apt to try new things. Being vulnerable allows us to take risks, and we often learn best when we challenge ourselves in new way.


Curiosity helps students find new ways of learning. Guiding students in wilderness adventures, or field studies are ways of generating curiosity. Often, when we put ourselves into a new setting, we see and understand concepts in unique ways. Different ways of seeing generate new questions. Like a child learning about the world around them, curiosity often leads to a desire to know more.


Reflective writing is the culmination of lifelong learning. Writing intentionally involves people in in the process of learning. When we are actively observing and recording, we become more focused on the details of a given experience. Yet, reflective writing goes a step further by asking students to create their own measurements about what and how they have learned. As we reflect, we transfer the knowledge that we have gained from being vulnerable and curious into personally applicable knowledge. Through reflection, we integrate and contextualize our own growth. We are able to see more connection and substance to make our learning experiences relevant to our own lives.

By using these three concepts in experiential learning, students and educators will find success in becoming lifelong learners.