Every small step brings you closer to your goals.
A crucial life skill is lifelong learning.This includes experimenting and learning. You can learn informally and hope that it will positively impact your life, or you can adopt a process and be more certain of how it affects your life. Today we’re going to explain a popular adult learning framework and explore actions you can take with thegoal to develop your career.
A crucial life skill is lifelong learning. The ability and willingness to keep on learning, even when not in a formal educational system. Lifelong learning is integral to career development. Of course, you can sit back, relax, and wait for others to assign classes to you or push you to complete tasks beyond your comfort zone. But true, impactful learning requires personal investment.
This personal investment is central in adult learning theories. For this reason, these theoretical frameworks put personal motivation and relevance of learning material at the forefront. Knowing this can help you shape your learning path and, through this, take control of your career.
A widely popular adult learning framework is Kolb’s Learning Cycle. David A. Kolb is an American educationalist who considers personal experiences a cornerstone of any adult education program. Following this viewpoint, he developed his experiential learning framework in 1984.
Kolb’s four stages of learning
As it is a cycle, it doesn’t matter where you start. The nexus of this framework is that learning happens when people reflect on their experience and, following their reflection, make changes. Let’s have a look at the four stages:
Concrete experience: This is often presented as the “first stage” kick-starting the learning cycle. You experience something, and this experience makes you feel in a certain way. It could be watching your colleague present and be impressed by their skills, sleeping more than 6 hours, writing an article.
Example: You have to write an article but are unsure where to start, and you feel stuck.
Active reflection: Following your experience, you begin to think (internal reflection) and observe (external reflection). You are trying to find any inconsistency between what you experienced in the first stage and what you know. In other words, you are comparing what you expected should have happened with what happened. In this stage, people turn to google for answers or talk with others. It’s about exploration and discovery.
Example: You expected the task only to take 4 hours, but you observed that your progress was slow. You also notice that you get annoyed at yourself for not having any inspiration to start your work. You talk about your problem with others and observe that they do not feel as often stuck and uninspired as you.
Abstract Conceptualization: This stage often happens unconsciously. After reflecting and observing, you start to form rules or general heuristics or strategies. You develop hypotheses or ideas about why you experienced what you experienced. These are like plans helping you to gain a better understanding of the situation.
Example: You read several articles about writer’s block and learned that many creators, when feeling stuck, change their environment by going for a walk or working in a cafe. Others switch tasks. Thanks to your internal reflection, you realized that this particular project came at the wrong time. You are passionate about the topic, but you already have too much on your plate.
Active Experimentation: In the fourth stage, you experiment with the goal to improve. You developed your own framework in the previous step, and now it’s time to test if it works. In this stage, you try your ideas. Of course, this stage leads to a new concrete experience.
Example: As you agreed to do this project, you don’t have the freedom to change the deadline. But you can change your environment. You decide to go on a walk. While walking, you keep thinking about the project and slowly develop ideas about what you want to write. You make a mental note to go on more walks, especially when feeling uninspired.
Kolb’s learning cycle and career development
While it is easy to talk about abstract theoretical models, doing something with them is always harder. To help you connect Kolb’s learning cycle to career development, here are a couple of tips:
Keep track of experiences: As the focus of the framework is personal experiences, collect and track them. Of course, not everything, but focus on surprising or frustrating events. Focus on the experiences which create intense positive or negative feelings in you.
You can make your collection of experiences as simple or as complex as you want: You can add tags to categorize the experiences or add when they occurred.
The key is that you collect them by describing them as best as possible. Once per week, put a couple of hours aside to review these experiences and relate them to your career goals. That will help you focus your time on exploring the fields that are meaningful for you.
Reflect on your experiences: At least once per week take time to think about meaningful events that happened to you. Internal reflection is a cornerstone activity for lifelong learning. We offer a free short course to help you gain and improve this superpower. You can answer two simple prompts:
What did I struggle with this week?
What is the origin of this roadblock?
If you want this reflective activity to have an even more significant impact on you, answer the third prompt:
How do others solve/deal with this roadblock?
Seek out new experiences: Go beyond what you know and challenge yourself. Read a book that is beyond your expertise, or try out something new. Doing a new activity might not teach you relevant hard skills for your career but will provide insights into how you deal with unfamiliar situations. In addition, they can teach you soft skills such as communication or leadership.
1. Keep track of your experience
2. Reflect on your experiences
3. Seek new experiences
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