Day 083 – Curiosity and learning

Today I was thinking about curiosity and how I prefer to learn, and I thought of David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle, a well-researched model that explains how we use our experiences to learn to do things better (rather than how we learn, for example, the capital cities of the world).

It looks like this:


What do all those big words mean? Simplified they mean that we experience something, reflect on it, create ideas about what might work better, try those ideas out, end up with a new experience that we reflect on, and so on. For example, I might sing a song in a concert (concrete experience). If I want to get better at singing, I will likely go home, analyze what happened, make some decisions about what I could do better next time, and then try out those ideas the next time I sing. That way I get feedback on how well my ideas worked and start the cycle over again for continual improvement and learning.

No doubt laid out like this it seems pretty logical and obvious to you, which raises the questions: Why would someone spend a good part of his professional life testing and refining this model? And why should we care? The answer is: Because seeing the distinct stages laid out like that makes it possible for us to check and see if we are really moving through all four. This helps because usually people are drawn naturally to certain stages and spend more time on those while neglecting others, which can keep them from learning really effectively.

An example: I personally love analyzing what happened (the Reflective Observation stage) and also like developing ideas to try out next time (the Abstract Conceptualization stage); but I have to make a big, conscious effort to go out into the world and try those ideas out (the Active Experimentation stage). (That revelation must come as a complete surprise to those of you who have been following this blog faithfully. ;-)) This keeps me from learning as fully as I could from my experiences. Other people love experimentation but find reflection tedious or senseless, and that keeps them from learning as fully as they could. According to Kolb, though, none of the stages is senseless, and once we know which stages we would rather skip we can make that big, conscious effort to move through them properly, too.

What does this have to do with curiosity? It can help explain, to some degree, what kinds of curiosity we find easy and may open doors to focusing more consciously on the other kinds—just out of curiosity to see what happens, of course. 😉

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