The learning cycle

Good gardeners want to learn about the cycle of the seasons. People who love DIY can tell you exactly how to go about doing a particular task. Anyone who has cooked anything knows that you need to have some kind of an idea how you are going to create a meal, even if you are not the sort of person to follow a recipe. The same is, of course, true of learning.

Competent learners tend to want to know a little about the theories underpinning such an important activity. Unfortunately, there have been some very wrong-headed notions attached to learning for far too long. One of the most pernicious of these is IQ, the idea that there is only one way in which you can be clever. Another is sometimes referred to as the "tabula rasa" or "clean slate" view of learning. In this approach, the learner is seen as an empty vessel waiting to be filled up with knowledge. Learners are passive beings waiting for their teachers to teach them. These two ideas have, in my view, poisoned the school systems of the world and given the training departments of so many large organizations a serious illness. The disease they have caught is, of course, the problem of passivity: This is sometimes called "chalk and talk," a strange custom whereby learners are put in rows and spoken at while they diligently copy down what is being said. It is highly inefficient as a method of learning.

Learning is essentially an active experience. One of the first theorists to describe this convincingly was David Kolb, who articulated something called "experiential learning," now widely seen as a model for effective learning. He argued that learning starts from actual experience. It is followed by observations from reflection and leads to the creation of a new model or theory. This is followed, in turn, by active experimentation and further refinement.

For many in the business world, this has a ring of truth to it, following as it does the product development cycle with which many are familiar. The Swedish knowledge expert Klas Mellander goes further still in proposing a development of Kolb's cycle as follows:



into knowledge insight

Think about what you have learned in the last month. Have you had some "aha!" moments? A If so, what were they? If not, how would you describe the process by which you tend to learn? Does it fit with any of the models we have looked at so far?

For me, the diagram above shows a more realistic description of what is going on when we learn, although if you think that you will always have that "aha!" or "eureka!" moment you are mistaken, as you will see in the next chapter. There certainly are many times when things do suddenly fall into place like this, but on the whole learning is much more messy.

Mellander's model is really helpful in pointing up one of the most powerful ways in which learning helps individuals and organizations to be successful. This is by capturing the tacit and, therefore, hidden knowledge that has been learned, which will be of only limited use unless it can be shared.

Another way of looking at Mellander's model is to think of any experience of learning as having four different stages. I have used the example of making an omelette to illustrate this.

Know what:You recognize an omelette and have eaten one \

Know how:You have read a recipe and tried cooking one a

Know why:You know why it is important not to get egg shells into the mix and why the butter should not be too hot

Care why:You care about why it is important to have good quality of ingredients and how omelettes fit into a balanced diet

See if you could draw a model or diagram of how you think you learn.

How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time

How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave several of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness too much to do and not enough time; the pressure to produce and check off items on our to-do list by each day’s end seems to decide the direction and quality of our existence for us.

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