Tag Archives: Reflection

The Learning Cycle

David A. Kolb (born 1939) is an American educational theorist whose interests and publications focus on experiential learning.  In his book published in 1984 entitled, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, he put forth his theory that has proven to be an effectual model for transformative learning.  We are indebted for his clarification of the key aspects of learning and summarization into a memorable way.

Perhaps you have heard or stated the phrase, “Experience is the best teacher.” Experience is one of the most powerful ways to learn.  When you fully participate in an experience you must use your mind, your eyes, nose, ears and often your fingers and mouth.  Your senses are fully engaged to reinforce lessons being observed.  Consider Kolb’s four-part model:

1. Experience: Learning results from a process of observation through some concrete experience. Many people never take the time to maximize an experience so that deeper learning can occur. For those who harvest the fruit of experience, they develop habits of observation.

2. Reflection: Observations can become transformational when they are assimilated and distilled into core concepts from which new insights and implications can be drawn. The implications must be tested for validity. Depending on one’s learning style this part of the process will involve study, dialogue, or further experimentation.  Reflection can be done in some refreshing personal way or in community.  However, it is essential to prioritize space for reflection.

3. Conclusion: Potential implications from reflection on experience must be processed through thinking and feeling. Although we all make quick decisions about experiences for good or bad, memorable or forgettable, few are given critical evaluation. After weighing the probable correctness of learning, one can experiment further.

4. Application: The learning cycle concludes one revolution when conclusions are put into action. This is an intentional process of testing to see if the experience, reflection, and conclusion resulted in a worthy new integration for living. Again, some people do this more intuitively, but for leaders committed to helping others maximize their learning this becomes a natural and reoccurring cycle.

NOTE: A sad reality more often than not is that people draw conclusions after experiences without taking the time for reflection. The result of short-circuiting this process is shallow or inaccurate conclusions.  Reflection is an essential skill every effective leader must exhibit.

How did Jesus facilitate such learning with the disciples? One incident of many is seen in Mark chapter 8 after the feeding of the 4,000.  Remember, there was a prior feeding of some 5,000 (Mark 6) so sufficient time for learning from multiple experiences had occurred.  While in the boat traveling to the other side of the lake, Jesus facilitates reflection by cautioning against the “leaven” of the Pharisees (verse 15).  The disciples apparently had not accurately reflected upon their experiences so they made false assumptions about what Jesus was asking.  Jesus then provides a laser-focused explanation, challenging their lack of observation and reflection, which inhibited sound conclusions (verses 17-21).  The goal was for increased understanding and ongoing application but it could not happen without going through the learning cycle.

How well do you steward your life experiences? What habits have you developed to prioritize reflection for deeper learning?  How well do you encourage and nurture reflection for those you lead?  A disciple is a learner and a good learner or developer of learners will engage in such experiential learning.

Next blog: Developmental Dialogue


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David was great when he inquired of the Lord

When the historians wrote of David’s life, they did so with much admiration.  What he contributed to his generation was astounding.  How does one live to serve the purposes of God in his or her generation (Acts 13:36) and leave such a legacy?  It requires having a heart after God.  And, developing a heart after God will be in direct proportion to the quantity and quality of time invested with God.  I want to introduce what I believe is a major flaw for many leaders.

I suspect that when most people think about time with God, they think about talking to Him.  In Proverbs 15:8 we learn that the prayer of the upright is His delight.  So by asking or inquiring of God, we delight Him.  But, as any parent (or grandparent) knows, a love relationship involves more than asking.  It involves shared time and experiences together.

During David’s early life as a shepherd, he cultivated a habit for reflection and meditation and enjoying time with God.  We observe such a posture continuing after he was anointed and when he eventually became recognized as God’s choice of king.

In particular, we see that David disengaged from his disheartening situation at Ziklag after the wives, children, and possessions were taken captive by the Amalekites (1 Sam 30).  He found strength from the Lord for making the needed decisions.  In another difficult time when his sons were in rebellion (2 Sam 13), David’s reflection and processing of how his sin complicated life is apparent by his disposition.  Also, after his crisis with Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Sam 12), he apparently resisted reflection but eventually came to his senses and through deep reflection, he repented (Ps 32, 51).  We learn that David did not use reflection as a leadership practice only in times of trouble but when there was peace he practiced reflection as well.  This was how his dream to build a house for God came to pass (2 Sam 7).  We can only assume this reflective practice was often repeated resulting in Psalms of thanks and praise.

The art of reflection is essential for effective leadership.  Wise men and women, extroverts as well as introverts, will intentionally disengage on a regular basis to refocus their perspective and replenish their inner strength for the complicated responsibility of leadership.  When times for reflection are few, a leader is far more susceptible to making poor decisions.  Even David, a man after God’s heart, was all too human in illustrating both the benefits of and consequences for the lack of reflection.

Building upon the habitual practice of being with God, David was able to inquire with sincere motives that flowed from a lifestyle of intimacy with his Shepherd.  Seeking and inquiring of the Lord became a hallmark of David (1 Sam 22:10).  Also see 1 Sam 22:13; 23:2,4; 30:8; 2 Sam 2:1; 5:19, 23; 14:10; 1 Chr 14:10,14.  By contrast, the only mention of this practice with Saul is that he did not inquire of the Lord (1 Chr 10:14) or that the Lord did not answer him (1 Sam 28:6).  In 1 Sam 27:8 and following David did not inquire of the Lord and so these killings were murder.

What is your habitual practice of disengaging from the routine of leadership and life to draw near to God in an undistracted way?  How often do you make this a priority?  Weekly, monthly, quarterly?  What support do you need to ensure that this priority is not compromised?  Spouse, supervisor, friend?  All great leaders take time for reflection.  Great Christian leaders inquire of the Lord from a habitual practice of disengagement with reflection.  When is your next scheduled time to do so??


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