Adult Education

Adult Learning Overview of Kolbs Learning Cycle



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When understanding one's learning experience and its progression, it is a good idea to visit the Kolb’s learning cycle for an overall guidance.

In the Kolb’s learning cycle, the stages of a reflective learner have been illustrated. It moves along four specific stages and the learning process can begin at any one of these stages. Considering the nature of learners that are encountered, in theory, the learning process can end at any stage as well.

Ideally, the learning cycle starts with a learning experience. It has been identified by Kolb as a Concrete Experience. It could well be that this experience need to be the result of an active learning process for it to be a concrete experience.

Following the experience, the learner will reflect on his learning, and the process has been identified as ‘Reflective observation’. The learners are expected to identify what was learnt, how it was learnt, the benefits that it gave, how it can be used in practice and how else could the learning be improved or make more effective. The process can be enhanced by making use of various methods in receiving feedback from different entities involved in the learning experience.

For a learner who has reflected on his or her learning experience, he would want to put their experience in the perspective of a theoretical concept or inside an acceptable model. Evidence based practice in clinical medicine can be thought of as the outcome of such a practice in making use of sound theoretical support to back the clinical decision making.

This event would also be triggered when the learner is being presented with a concept or a model. The linking of the experience with concepts and models and further understanding its basis would be ‘Abstract conceptualization’.

A learner who has conceptualized the reflections he made over a concrete experience can think and implement these concepts and models in a practical setting. The planning of such activity will be made possible by the reflection, and the concept building stages in the same cycle.

Even though one fulfils the needs of the kolb’s learning cycle, once he or she arrives at the last stage, it will re-start its cycle with a new learning experience. Thus, in reality, learning does not get terminated unless the learner decides to do so at any stage of the learning cycle.

When considering these facts, it is obvious that the reflective practice plays a major role in one's learning experience.

More about this author: Dr Pandula Siribaddana

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