Identify Key Learning Experiences and Select Three

lightbulb  Key Learning Experiences

Key Learning Experiences can occur in any setting, formal, or informal. A Key Learning Experience is an experience, event, or time in your life that had significant impact on you, making it particularly memorable (Peet,2010, p 24, SCQF, 2010, p. 19) .  A reason a particular experience feels significant could be because it:

  • stimulated an “a-ha” moment of realization or insight
  • was pleasurable
  • was painful
  • affected you deeply
  • changed your values in some way
  • changed your actions in some way
  • had positive outcomes
  • had negative outcomes
  • was fulfilling
  • was disappointing
  • made you proud
  • embarrassed you
  • was highly demanding in time, energy, effort, or resources

However, you don’t have to understand exactly why a particular experience feels significant, you just have to identify some experiences that influenced you in significant ways. Your key learning experiences may be from any area of your life, personal or professional. They may include experiences from volunteering, hobbies, employment, training, formal education, family responsibilities, and other arenas.

Identify Three Experiences to Work With

You have had many key learning experiences, but begin by identifying THREE that stand out.  To narrow your choices to three, first give yourself the gift of a brainstorming session.


Give yourself a leisurely, uncensored, time period of “free writing” time to write down every experience that comes to mind when you think about experiences that influenced you in significant ways.  You can do this on paper, or electronically. You may find, as I did, that you can focus more deeply by dividing your life into stages. I chose to create a Mind Map to help me focus on meaningful experiences at different times of my life.

Mind map image

My mind-map of key learning experiences

There are some cool mind mapping applications available free online to help you brainstorm. I chose Mind42 based on the recommendations of a blog called Lifehack. Taking the time to recognize meaningful learning experiences from various stages of your life may also give you some sense of perspective between them. For example, I realized that an experience that was meaningful to me in my early teen years has had continuing importance and influence to the present day.

Select Three

After brainstorming, review your list of experiences and choose THREE that feel as though they are high on the list of the most significant. Don’t worry about leaving out something important. You can revisit this process as often as you wish! You’re welcome to take a look at the mind map I made. I put a star icon on five experiences, but then I narrowed them further to three. The three experiences I chose to work with were 1) learning yoga while growing up, 2) teaching at CSUMB, and 3) earning an MA in English.


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