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Experiential essays – 3,000 to 4,500 word essay:
1. Select an approved topic from our experiential essay list
2. Essays must follow these guidelines:

They must be written in the first person.
The personal experience used in writing experiential learning essays must have occurred
post high school or after date GED® was granted.
Use 12-point, Times New Roman font and double-space the document.
Address the four sections of Kolb’s experiential learning model:
1. Concrete experience
2. Reflective observation
3. Abstract conceptualization
4. Active experimentation
According to Kolb, “Knowledge results from the combination of grasping experience and
transforming it.” In his model, there are four distinct segments to learning:

Description of Concrete experience
Testing and Application
When you write your experiential essay, you are required to use each of Kolb’s four steps to
describe each of the required subtopics. For instance, if you have developed a nutrition or health
plan with your health care provider, and have maintained that health plan, you may want to write the
essay on “Human Nutrition and Health”. You must address these subtopics in your 3,000 to 4,500
word essay:

Subtopic 1: Explain the physiological role of protein, fat, and carbohydrates in maintaining

Subtopic 2: Explore the physiological role of vitamins and minerals in disease prevention.
Subtopic 3: Discuss major nutritional guidelines to decrease heart disease, cancer, and
Subtopic 4: Analyze modifications from national recommended guidelines you have made in
your diet and the rationale for those modifications.
Subtopic 5: Explore challenges US citizens encounter in attaining sound nutrition.
Subtopic 6: Discuss current fad diets and the hazards they bring to overall health and
In subtopic 1, you must address each of Kolb’s points:

Description of Concrete Experience: discuss your experiences with the way your body
reacts to specific types of foods, namely proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, and how these
contribute to your overall health.
Reflections: describe your feelings about your experiences and how your thoughts,
attitudes and observations developed through the reflective process. For instance, as you
experimented with different foods, how did your thoughts change about your nutrition plan?
Did you grow to like foods that you didn’t like before? Explain.
Generalizations, Principles and Theories: explain specific theories and principles of the
physiology of proteins, carbohydrates and fats and how they support your knowledge of the
topic in the area of nutrition and health. Discuss what your health care provider explained to
you about this topic.
Testing and Application: discuss how you tested the theories about protein, carbohydrates
and fat. Did applying a particular principle bring about the desired outcome? Why or why
not? You can add more to this discussion by writing about how more recent experiences
have impacted your generalizations, principles and theories.
3. Submit supporting documentation along with your essay as evidence that your experience
resulted in the level of expertise portrayed in your essay. Acceptable documents include
photocopies of licenses and certifications, as well as letters on company letterhead with
official signatures from employers, training providers or human resource representatives.
Friends and family can also corroborate your knowledge or experience through letters of
recommendation. Each individual essay must have separate supporting documentation.
Review this check list in prior to submitting your experiential learning essay. If you have completed all of the
items listed below, you are ready to submit your essay. Keep in mind, your evaluator may still request
additional material, however, the list below will guide in your essay submission preparations.
1. I have selected an approved essay topic from the essay course descriptions page.
2. Some essays have specific experience requirements. I have checked the essay description and I met
all of the experience requirements listed.
3. I have written an experiential essay: 3,000 to 4,500 words.
4. My essay is written in first person (1st) without references.
5. I have written to all four (4) areas of Kolb’s model of learning.
6. I have addressed all the required subtopics in each of the four areas of Kolb’s model of learning.
7. I have included supporting documentation that validates my personal/professional experience with
the essay course description/topic.
8. My essay is based on personal, life learning experiences, not based on research, history, or another
individual’s learning experiences.
Kolb’s Model
Below is a description of Kolb’s Model. All experiential essays must be written following Kolb’s Model. Below
you will find the four sections of Kolb’s Model, a brief description of the section, and a sample of how that
section should be addressed. The samples are pulled from the sample essay found on the PLA website, and it is
recommended that you review the sample essay for a more complete example of how to write an experiential
essay in Kolb’s Model. The words on this page do not count toward the essay length requirement.
1. Description of Concrete Experience
Description: Concrete experience represents your personal participation with the people, places, activities,
and events of an experience. You should describe your involvement relative to the experience, demonstrating
the opportunity for learning.
Sample: My career in public relations started off as a staff assistant in the Public Information Office of a
community college system. After two years of on-the-job training, I was promoted to the position of
community relations officer.
2. Reflections
Description: Reflections represent your thinking and processing relative to the experience. You should
demonstrate your learning by describing the knowledge, skills, and attitudes developed through the reflective
Sample: I have observed that some organizations are very good at garnering free publicity. They appear at
local events and frequently appear as experts in television and newspaper interviews.
3. Generalizations/Principles/Theories
Description: Generalizations, principles, and theories are constructs that organize and guide academic
learning. A typical college course is built around several such generalizations, principles, and/or theories.
In this stage, you identify and describe the generalizations, principles, and/or theories to demonstrate your
learning outcomes. These learning outcomes result from analyzing and reflecting on your experience. The
generalizations, principles, and/or theories should be comparable to those addressed in typical college courses
and should match the course description selected.
Sample: Whether working with large or small one-owner organizations, it makes no difference in establishing
rules, guidelines, or policies regarding image and public relations. Developing a detailed plan of action makes it
much easier to schedule and implement appropriate applicable strategies.
4. Testing and Application
Description: Testing and/or application represent situations in which the new learning can be used. You
should describe how you did, or could in the future, test and/or apply what you learned.
Sample: A fun promotional idea that emerged as a by-product profit center for the bookstore was t-shirts.
We printed t-shirts with the bookstore logo on the back with advertisements for the bookstore on the front.
Enter the approved essay title of the essay topic you have chosen from the PLA website. When you are ready to
begin writing the essay, type out the essay subtopics as they appear in the essay course description, and follow the
four steps of Kolb’s model.
Describe the experiences that taught you about the subtopic, reflect on that experience, explain the principles
learned, and then explain how those principles were tested and applied. You are then ready to move on to the
next subtopic. Follow this process until you meet the length requirement, and have addressed all required
subtopics. *Word count begins at the first subtopic.
Subtopic (1):
Description of Concrete Experience:
Generalizations, Principles and Theories:
Testing and Application:
Subtopic (2):
Description of Concrete Experience:
Generalizations, Principles and Theories:
Testing and Application:
Subtopic (3):
Description of Concrete Experience:
Generalizations, Principles and Theories:
Testing and Application:
Subtopic (4):
Description of Concrete Experience:
Generalizations, Principles and Theories:
Testing and Application:
Subtopic (5):
Description of Concrete Experience:
Generalizations, Principles and Theories:
Testing and Application:
Subtopic (6):
Description of Concrete Experience:
Generalizations, Principles and Theories:
Testing and Application:

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