This report looks at what reflective learning is from the perspective of others in an attempt to derive a collective definition that allows the individual to understand what reflective learning actually consists of. This report will examine the David Kolb's theory, what it means and how it can be incorporated into an individual's everyday life to assist in the reflective learning process. The second part of the report is about my individual experience involving reflective learning and will also illustrate myself trying to apply an experience of mine into the David Kolb Model to decide where or not I benefited from the experience.
According to Daudelin (1996, 39) reflective learning can be defined as "the process of stepping back from an experience to ponder, carefully and persistently, its meaning to the self through the development of inferences. He also suggests that "learning is the creation of meaning from past or current events that serves as a guide for future behaviour." Goldsmith (1995) continuous, noting that "reflection should be a habitual activity, an ongoing conversation with the self that moves hand in hand with the experience". David Kolb (1984) takes the idea of reflective learning being a process further and introduces the theory of a cycle in which students engage in and then observe and reflect on experiences, assimilate reflections in a theory, and then deduce implications for future action from that theory.
David Kolb Model
David Kolb's theory involves four different and equally important stages which make up the four stage learning cycle. The first stage is concrete experience, to apply the Kolb's model you need to have an identified incident or experience that you can reflect on. The next stage is observation and reflection this is where the individual would look at the experience and the consequences of the experience and reflect on them. This stage would include thoughts and feelings. The third stage would be where the individual would form abstract concepts or reasons to why the consequences where as they were and perhaps what behaviour adopted by the individual caused the result it did. Lastly stage four is where you would test new ideas and implement change to decide where or not it has an impact on the outcome.
The key to this sort of learning is reflection, which turns experience into learning (Boud et al., 1985).
Opinions Concerning Reflective Learning And The Kolb Model
Boud et al. (1985) agrees with Kolb and suggests that structured reflection is the key to learning from experience, and that reflection can be very difficult, "Perhaps if we can sharpen our consciousness of what reflection in learning can involve and how it can be influenced then we may be able to improve our own practice of learning and help those who learn with us". Schon (1987, 17) agrees with Boud et al and David Kolb that the process of reflective learning involves a more structured approach such as a model or theory but underscores the importance of the coaching process for learning the artistry of practice. McCarthy (1996, 120) also recommends that reflection should occur before, during, and after the service experiment and be an ongoing process.
However Forrest (2004) disagrees with the effectiveness of David Kolb's model and questions its reliability, "The experimental research base for the model was small, and there have been only a few further studies." It was also argued by John Heron (1992) "...the prehension-transformation distinction, as Kolb uses it, is fundamentally incoherent, and cannot be used to support his learning model''.
According to the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAAHE), reflective learning has become increasingly important in postgraduate programmes, where reflective learning is often combined with taught and research elements.
When introduced to the business employability module I was confused to why it was significant to me however as the weeks progressed I employed a deeper understanding of reflective learning and how it would prove to be beneficial in my personal and professional development.
My Experience With The Kolbs Cyle
This was most certainly the case in the early weeks of my business and employability seminars where in week three we discussed as a class what we thought about reflective learning and how it could prove to be beneficial to us in our professional development. It wasn't until week four we were asked for an experience of our own which we could apply David Kolb cycle of learning to extend our understanding on how the cycle worked in a real scenario relative to ourselves. So firstly I had to identify my concrete experience, I choose the results of ongoing class tests. The second stage I had to observe and reflect. My observation was that yes I had passed comfortably and my reflection was that perhaps due to other commitment such as work eating into my study plan I had not reached my full potential as a student. Now having completing stages one and two I was onto stage three, forming abstract concepts. This stage was for me the most challenging to implement, the most obvious answer was I had to study more and work less but incorporating these new routines was difficult however I was determined and indeed cut down my hours at work and studied more. Before long it was time to sit another class test which I successfully completed and passed with better results than the previous test. My conclusion was that reflecting on my previous behaviour and trying to continually improve on the outcome of previous experiences was a very effective and beneficial tool.
I found the structured model of learning easy to understand and apply which was encouraging. I found that the four stage learning cycle was designed in such a way it forced you to reflect on your experience which was effective. Overall I found the whole reflection process very beneficial as I could reassess areas of weakness and implement change into my current behaviour.
Reflecting On My Skills
On week five I had to undertake the task of completing the palms questionnaire. This was an extensive and detailed questionnaire which presented an opportunity to allocated myself a score of whether or not I strongly agreed or disagreed with statements which questioned certain skills including management, team working and problem solving skills. It was effective as it highlighted strengths I had acquired and also areas of weakness I had to develop my skills. An area I was strong in was management skills and delegation as I have to demonstrate such skills in my part time job as a shift manager in Mc Donald's however the questionnaire also illustrated that I lacked skills in problem solving. This was beneficial as it presented me with not only a weakness but an opportunity to develop on such skills as problem solving. I felt like the questionnaire was very long and you had to concentrate to do it effectively so that if someone were to rush it the possibility of flawed results would be higher. With respect to my individual experience with it I found it a very useful tool in my reflective learning.
It was the objective of this report to discover an explanation of reflective learning that is of use to the individual and would help them incorporate reflective learning in their future behaviour. The report also looked at a reflective learning module to assist in the understanding of how to apply the learning process to everyday situations. After studying reflective learning closely in this report and taking into consideration the benefits that adopting reflective practices as a regular method of learning would bring it seems that it is beneficial to the individual to participate in the practice of reflective learning.