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5.Explain the learning cycle concept proposed by David Kolb (1984) and discuss its relevance with the organisational situation you are in or familiar with. Critically evaluate its efficacy with respect to developing/changing mindset. Briefly describe the organisation you are referring to.
Explain the learning cycle concept proposed by David Kolb (1984) and discuss its relevance with the organisational situation you are in or familiar with. Critically evaluate its efficacy with respect to developing/changing mindset. Briefly describe the organisation you are referring to.
Not all forms of skill and knowledge emphasise all the stages of the Cycle to the same extent, and Kolb has carried the argument further by relating topics and subject areas to the cycle in the following ways:
Concrete Experience corresponds to "knowledge by acquaintance", direct practical experience (or "Apprehension" in Kolb's terms), as opposed to "knowledge about" something, which is theoretical, but perhaps more comprehensive, (hence "Comprehension") and represented by Abstract Conceptualisation.
Reflective Observation concentrates on what the experience means to the experiencer, (it is transformed by "Intension") or its connotations, while Active Experimentation transforms the theory of Abstract Conceptualisation by testing it in practice (by "Extension") and relates to its denotations.
Concrete Experience and Reflective Observation are essentially the private and personal parts of the cycle, whereas Abstract Conceptualisation and Active Experimentation are more public and visible to others. Hence behavioural theories of learning concentrate almost exclusively on the visible Active Experimentation processes.
Forms of Knowledge and the Learning Cycle
The four quadrants of the cycle are associated with four different forms of knowledge, in Kolb's view. Each of these forms is paired with its diagonal opposite.
Convergent and Divergent Knowledge
This distinction was first made by Hudson (1967) in terms of styles of thinking rather than forms of knowledge: convergent knowledge brings to bear a number of facts or principles on a single topic: problems have "right" and "wrong" answers. Hudson believed convergent learners tended to be more highly valued in school, because most assessment approaches focus on convergent skills. Examples include applied maths, engineering, and some aspects of languages. It is located in the quadrant between Abstract Conceptualisation and Active Experimentation.
Divergent knowledge on the other hand, is (very broadly) more about creativity — it is about the generation of a number of accounts of experience, such as in literature or history or art. Judgement about the quality of divergent knowledge and skills is much more difficult, because these are private areas. It is generated between Concrete Experience and Reflective Observation.
Assimilation and Accommodation
Hands up if you remember your Piaget! Assimilation and Accommodation are in his view two dialectically related processes (i.e. opposing principles — thesis and antithesis — between which a compromise — synthesis — has to be negotiated) which describe (roughly) different relationship between knowledge of the outside world and knowledge already held in our heads.
The Kolb Model and Subject Disciplines
Kolb and his colleagues have undertaken extensive empirical work using the Learning Styles Inventory to relate different subject disciplines to the quadrants of the learning cycle and hence to different forms of knowledge: partly for reasons of space and partly for copyright reasons, you are referred to the text for the results.
Broadly speaking, he suggests that practitioners of creative disciplines, such as the arts, are found in the Divergent quadrant.
Pure scientists and mathematicians are in the Assimilative quadrant
Applied scientists and lawyers are in the Convergent quadrant
Professionals who have to operate more intuitively, such as teachers, are in the Accommodative quadrant
There are also differences in the location of specialists within the more general disciplines
This would suggest that different subject areas call for different learning styles, and raises the usual chicken and egg question as to whether the discipline promotes a particular learning style, or whether preferred learning style leads to adoption of a discipline, or of course, both. (All of the above assumes that there is some validity in this conceptualisation of "learning styles".)
This 'Learning Cycle' provides a helpful simple diagram of the process of experiential learning, which is broadly:
3. develop and implement ideas for improvement.
Here follow the principles of experiential learning on greater detail, especially as they relate to organised activities, events and games, etc.
1 - learner is central
The learner is central to the process throughout, the facilitator provides the learner with a service. The principle that the success of the experiential approach to learning depends on the learners is fundamental. Therefore the facilitator must understand that learners can only make best use of their opportunities if they are ready, willing and able to become personally involved in the learning process: learners have to be prepared to actively develop their understanding, critique and evaluate the messages in their context and then work hard to apply appropriate learning.
2 - facilitation must be light and subtle
Principle 2 Individuals can and do learn without facilitation. Learners learn experientially by reflecting on their experiences, developing personal insights and understandings through involvement in intellectual, emotional and physical activity. This can be (and often is) done by an individual without any external help. A facilitator is not a prerequisite. Experiential learning involves people in working things through for themselves and developing their own understanding, so facilitators should always be seeking ways to enable this to happen. Although effective facilitation can add tremendous value, facilitators should remember that inappropriate facilitation can hinder, rather than help learning; they should not instruct, proffer knowledge, proscribe or offer personal wisdom.
3 - find/create experiential learning opportunities
A facilitator should help create learning opportunities and enable others to recognise and make good use of these opportunities. The facilitator can provide help during each element of the learning cycle by creating an appropriate learning environment, providing an activity that will initiate the learning process, creating an atmosphere and framework conducive to constructively critical review, (guiding thinking and challenging to developing understanding) ensuring that any conceptual thinking is progressed to meaningful conclusions and opportunities for improvement identified. Facilitation is a complex and skilled process.
4 - reactions to experiences vary so don't pre-judge
You cannot predict the learning an individual will take from an activity. Because individuals are personally involved in experiential learning individuals can take very different messages from a single event. An obvious example is one where a person fails to listen to another. If they are to learn, both individuals need to understand their part in their failure to communicate, but the causes could be numerous and therefore each persons learning very different. So for example, behaviours seen in an individual who isn't heard could be; doesn't express ideas clearly, doesn't check the 'listener has understood', speaks when the other person isn't ready to listen, doesn't help the listener understand the significance of the information, fails to develop the idea, backs down when challenged, etc. Similarly example reasons why a 'listener' doesn't listen could be; doesn't see the issue as being important, had prejudged the issue, is distracted by personal thoughts, doesn't respect the other person (and or their views). Therefore one event can provide the individuals involved with quite different or even diametrically opposed learning.
5 - single events can enable several different learning effects
There is potential for the learning to be at several levels. In the example used in note 4 above I gave behaviours for not being heard, but reasons for not listening. Typically addressing and developing behavioural change is less challenging than addressing the reasons. Taking the example from above, it can be seen that there is a hierarchy of challenge that the facilitator can encourage the learner to address: realising the need (e.g. I won't be listened to if the other person is speaking) developing the skill (e.g. speaking clearly and concisely) developing the confidence or self esteem (e.g. believing that I and my views are of value) challenging personal attitudes (e.g. questioning personal drivers and belief systems).
6 - build confidence before addressing attitudes and behaviour
Developing basic skills in a supportive environment is relatively simple, changing day to day behaviour is another matter. After having read this note it might be tempting to go straight to the fundamentals and target attitudes first. (If you have a positive attitude and personal confidence it is easier to implement personal change.) However remembering that the learner has to want to learn, it is far safer to build the learners confidence through success with skill development and behavioural change in simple or superficial areas first. When some progress has been made you can consider raising and tackling more fundamental issues like personal confidence and attitudes to others. It's worth being aware however, that a knock on effect of individuals beginning to use new skills and realise their benefits can be a growth in self esteem and personal confidence.
7 - the activity must be real and engaging - not based on artificial impact
A learning activity is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The purpose of an experiential learning activity is to create an opportunity for valuable and memorable personal leaning. The ideal activity will engage, stimulate and challenge with individuals becoming absorbed in the task as themselves. It will not involve role play in a conventional artificial sense. All activities must be designed, managed and facilitated carefully so that the activity has impact, but it isn't so memorable that these 'activity memories' override the impact and memory of the learning. If this happens the lasting memory may be an aspect of the activity, not the learning that was realised.
8 - ensure activities allow adequate and meaningful reviews
An effective activity provides the opportunities for learning with as few distractions as possible. It can be great fun to run 'big activities' (although some people hate them) and there is no doubt that 'ropes' courses (as 'outward bound' activities are referred to in some parts of the world) and outdoor team challenges can generate real learning opportunities, but take care. Besides the risk of big events overpowering their intended lessons, the duration of these activities often means that many learning opportunities are lost; valuable incidents can get forgotten or overlooked or submerged in the complexity of the task. Although less memorable in themselves, running several short activities (10-30 minutes) each followed by its own review will often have far greater long term impact that one big activity.
9 - carefully reviews of activities are crucial
The learning review is a vital stage of every activity. It should be planned as part of the design, not left to chance. Reviews can take many forms but all must engage the learners. The ideal review will involve the learner in personal thought, challenge and discussion before coming to some form of conclusion. It is often useful if a period of individual reflection, guided by open-ended or tick-box questionnaires, is followed by a facilitated discussion. If it is to be of real benefit, the review must be an honest critique of what happened and the contributions of each individual. Real issues should not be swept under the carpet, but equally criticism must be constructive.
10 - accentuate the positives
Concentrate learning and reviews on the positives more than the negatives. It is all too easy to focus on the negatives but this can seriously undermine confidence in the whole idea of learning and development if the negatives are over-emphasised, especially for people who are not especially robust. It's obvious that if something goes wrong, or just doesn't go as well as we hoped, there will be benefit in review and change. It can, however, be equally beneficial to review what's gone well. It's not only motivating to recognise and focus on success, but finding out what caused the success and seeking ways to make greater or wider use of it can reap tangible rewards.
11 - use stimulating questions in reviews, especially for groups discussions
A review discussion is an opportunity for learners, helped by the facilitator, to develop their own understanding and draw their own conclusions. The role of the facilitator is to enable others to learn by drawing out the issues and developing the learning that is relevant to the individuals. The facilitator should ask questions that will stimulate thought about relevant issues and enable the group to use answers given to develop further thought and learning.
12 - resist temptation to give answers - ask questions only
Don't tell people what they should learn. An observer is in a privileged position, often seeing aspects that are not obvious to others. If you observe a point that isn't raised during a review it is legitimate to raise it, but only through questioning. If, despite questioning, individuals don't relate to the point, there is no benefit in pursuing as any 'learning' will not be theirs. A better option is for you to run another activity designed to focus more attention on this specific point. Whatever happens, don't be tempted to provide a 'professional analysis' as this approach takes the ownership of the learning away from the individual.
13 - have faith in people's ability to learn for themselves
Believe in the learners: they can and will make experiential learning opportunities work for them. To be an effective facilitator of experiential learning you have to believe, really believe, in others. You have to believe that they have the potential to make progress and be committed to the fact that your role is to provide opportunities for others to learn and progress.
14 - it's about them not you
Forget your ego. Your success is individuals capitalising on their personal learning. As an effective facilitator you have to be satisfied with the knowledge that you offer and develop opportunities for others to learn, many of which will go unused or undervalued. You have to accept that you are not offering 'tangible and technical' contributions and therefore will not be able to look back and say 'I taught this person x or y'. If you're lucky however, every now and again in the years to come you will hear of some far-reaching consequences that will go way beyond what you might have hoped or imagined.
15 - getting started
Perhaps not surprisingly the best way to start is to experience facilitating - actually have a go at it: experience the process. Find a group of people who are happy to be 'guinea pigs' and just try a simple activity that is tried and tested. Think about the activities you've experienced yourself in the past. Talk to other people. Ask the potential delegates if they have ideas and preferences or recommendations.
Facilitating Leadership Development (through experiential learning
CHANGING THE MIND SET IN LEADERSHIP
Leadership development is a highly personal learning experience that can provide new and relevant insights into one’s strengths as a leader as well as the key areas to work on for further development. The role of a facilitator in this learning process, their respective input, knowledge and skill, as well as the responsibilities that go along with these, have the potential to make a leadership development intervention a purposeful and lasting experience.
Leadership development shouldn't be simply an exercise in information download but the facilitation of a more self-directed learning process. With further contrasting images of outward-bound adventures and paint-shooting weekends, changing the historic perception of leadership development remains a central challenge for a training provider seeking to change this outdated mind-set.
Self-directed learning creates self-directed change and means that participants must become aware of and understand the process of intentional emotional, cognitive and behavioural change. However, when it comes to developing any lasting leadership skills, the way people feel about learning will matter immensely.
adults only learn what they want to learn and show that most if not all sustainable behavioural changes are intentional. As in the ‘boiling frog syndrome’, slow adjustments are more acceptable, and the same changes, if enforced or made too rapidly, will not be well-tolerated.
Good leaders never cease to learn and taking personal responsibility for one’s own learning remains a central tenet in any personal development iniiative.
“No person can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate that can only be opened from the inside.”
“The main thing is to release the passions and energies in different individuals, creating the illusion that they are actually doing what they are doing and not being led by somebody.”
Self-directed learning usually requires a level of external facilitation; evident by how autonomous groups on our own leadership development courses at MBA generally remain distinctly leaderless during the early stages of the programme until group members are assigned specific leadership roles by the facilitation team. ‘Taxonomy of Learning Domains’ underpins the classical 'knowledge, attitude and skills structure of learning and evaluation, highlighting three overlapping areas that enable skillful facilitators to focus on where the blockages to learning may lie:
1. The cognitive domain (our intellectual capability, i.e. knowledge and thinking)
2. The affective domain (our feelings, emotions, attitudes and behaviours)
3. The psychomotor domain (our manual and physical skills and actions).
Collectively, these domains present a valid framework for experiential learning and provide a cogent structure for planning, designing and evaluating effectiveness in the acquisition of new skills and knowledge as well as the attitudes and behaviours that determine performance; surely the primary goals in any learning and development process.
An important factor in all of this is the right level of expertise in leadership issues and in this respect a skilled and experienced facilitator plays a pivotal role. Participants make early judgements on the artist before they judge the painting and credibility and trustworthiness are further personal qualities required in any training role as is a degree of humility and an open mind that can help in establishing rapport; reflecting, “that one ended up teaching the subject one most needed to learn.”
To ensure a positive learning experience, a facilitator must create the appropriate learning environment by being fully aware of what each participant is trying to achieve and thereafter supporting them, though not always by too readily reporting on their actions, but more often through observation, interpretation, analysis and then questioning and listening. Any plenary sessions should compliment, reinforce or guide the learning experience by engaging each participant and communicating the salient message effectively, at the same time remaining relevant to the reality of the participants' workplace and flexible enough to adapt accordingly. Furthermore, they must advise individuals and groups, in advance, of their role, the ground rules and the nature and context of any proposed experiential exercises. This early clarification of roles is an essential aspect in creating a safe environment for self-exploration.
In a coaching sense, the prime responsibility of every coach is to enable and support the learner in achieving their personal learning objectives; thereby improving performance. Progress is made through open, honest interactions and a clear structure that avoids any potential ambiguities by remaining realistic in relation to the learner's capability. Excellent communication skills are required here; demonstrated through observation, active listening and by asking productive questions that draw out the important issues. “Seek first to understand,” “most people don’t listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.”Effective facilitation means being able manage the information derived from purposeful communication through observation, followed by an open and honest dialogue.
'Facilitating' or simplifying the learning process is exactly this, yet at the same time resisting the temptation of expressing potentially strong and individually held views on any of the issues being discussed. The quality of the interpersonal relationships and the resulting conversations have a decisive impact on the way participants think and feel. A key factor, therefore, is the ability to engage effectively with people by being aware of what really matters in order to expose the real issues and problems. Effective interventions should deal with any defensive behaviour in the group with the appropriate role being one that accurately represents a detached relationship with the individual or the group whilst at the same time remaining engaged with the learning process; if inappropriate, at times acting as ‘agent provocateur’ should the group ‘circle the wagons’ defensively or retaliate negatively against a difficult issue or proposition. People have difficulty hearing someone articulate their personal observations without assuming that there is a critical evaluation embedded in them and what is heard is often more important than what is actually said. When a facilitator intervenes, it should be to enable group members to learn a little more about themselves; too much intervention prevents the group or individual from taking responsibility for the content and quality of the learning process or from practising self-directed facilitation - itself an important leadership skill; too little and the facilitator risks letting the group or individual off the hook.
learning involves experience and the testing of new actions based upon new concepts. Above all, it requires a process of reflection and he expounds the view that the repetition of desirable thoughts and behaviours through action and reflection are the key to changing undesirable thoughts and behaviours. The failure to modify existing ideas and habits as a result of new experiences means that people are habitually repeating the same mistakes and is therefore mal-adaptive practice that will certainly require some external facilitation.
The process from which the learner draws on the lessons learned must be handled skilfully. The most influential person in this process should also be the most enabling.
The way in which participants are encouraged to interact in an experiential learning intervention may be quite different from how they are expected to act at work or in other learning environments. “Madness is the exception in individuals but the rule in groups.” and a facilitator will inevitably have to deal with potential conflict both within the group and at times with the learning process itself.
Effective facilitators understand this and successfully manage diverse and sometimes quite turbulent personal relationships. However, constructive discontent can be a positive feature in effective teams who will readily accept the inevitability of disagreement .“In great teams conflict becomes productive. The free flow of conflicting ideas and feelings is critical for creative thinking; for discovering new solutions no one individual would have come to on his own.”
As group members ourselves, we tend to deal with tension within the group in one of three ways; either by repressing it and pretending to be nice to each other, or by confronting it constructively and trying to change ourselves or others. Alternatively, we perpetuate and fuel the tension and ultimately hurt one another. A facilitator must continuously reflect on the extent to which tensions and behaviours are hindering the group’s effectiveness and consider the type of intervention skills required, as well as the potential consequences of doing nothing. Assuming positive intent in others is a powerful tool and an admirable personal value.
The three key roles of a facilitator are to enable the learning process, to manage feedback effectively, and to move the group or the individual towards a desired intention. Facilitation provides the learning opportunities rather than managing or controlling the learning and there are significant differences in behaviours and outcomes between a facilitative approach and more directive or didactic teaching. Four core elements enable the facilitation process to succeed;
o by engaging fully with the group and the environment
o by informing, to help individuals and groups acquire new information that relates to them personally
o by creating opportunities for active experimentation through experience
o by ‘personalising’ the experience to make the learning relevant.
Furthermore, the learner is the central player in the process and four prevailing conditions are essential in facilitating desirable outcomes;
o the learner(s) must see a connection
o there must be feedback on the learner(s) performance
o the learner(s) should have on-going opportunities to practise
o the learner(s) should be helped with any potentially poor communication.
As the group and individuals begin to manage their learning, a facilitator should intervene only when they believe there is some larger underlying issue, be it structural or contextual that is reducing the group’s effectiveness, or when it is appropriate to explore their core values and assumptions more deeply. The decision to intervene, who to intervene with, on what issue, and how to craft the opening lines are key decisions. Personal perceptions and bias must be controlled and behaviours observed long enough for the facilitator to make a reliable diagnosis before deciding on what to do or not do. It is neither feasible nor productive to intervene every time a group member acts ineffectively, otherwise facilitators could find themselves intervening on every comment; too much, and the group loses their own self-supporting opportunities, becoming over-reliant on an external source of learning; too little and potentially contentious issues may be deliberately avoided.
Feedback is considered a principal tool in leadership development and it is important to manage this in a sensitive and supportive manner. Understanding the impact of behaviour through feedback remains a core theme in all of LtEI’s programmes. However, evaluating performance can make a relationship judgemental and will remain relatively non-evaluative or judgemental only if the facilitator comments solely on what was seen or heard. Thereby, there is less of a perceived judgement of what is right or wrong, purely a comment on what was observed or heard.
Leadership development should be a planned and measured process through which knowledge is provided, attitudes nurtured, and skills developed thus enabling individuals become more effective as leaders. The learning process must be relevant and properly evaluated instead of merely a transfer or facts and theories for mindless recall. The roles of an external facilitator is key in enabling this process to reach successful outcomes yet so much of leadership development comes from within. As Robert Frost said at the inauguration of John F Kennedy; “something we were withholding made us weak, until we found it was ourselves.”Enabling others to overcome personal obstacles through enhancing their self-awareness, self-control and self-confidence plays a key part in unlocking the personal power that lies in everyone.
Due to the personalised nature of leadership development, facilitators must be trustworthy, adaptable, resilient, and constantly prepared for groups or individuals to see things differently. At certain times, they may have to draw on their own personal courage to open up contentious issues and enable participants to confront the brutal facts. They must be self-aware and self-controlled themselves to remain outside the group and avoid any personal stakes in their issues or any direct role in their decision-making processes. Being consistently willing and able to put the learners' needs to the fore and remain committed to the principles and values of coaching, mentoring and leading are the true measures of an effective facilitator. ########################