• Improving Student Learning Theory and Practice - 10 Years on

    Title: The Kolb cycle 10 years on: ripe for revision to include social constructivism?

    Author(s): Elisabet Weedon and John Cowan
    Institution(s): University of the Highlands and Islands Millennium Institute
    Session: Research seminar  

    The pre-conference literature encouraged potential presenters to consider what changes there have been, in the relationship of theory and practice in higher education, over the past ten years. The writers of this paper hope that at least part of the response to that important question will be formulated in full discussions within the conference, rather than by being set out authoritatively in papers written beforehand and presented with only a brief opportunity for questions. To that end they have assembled, for discussion rather than presentation, a personal impression, based on action research, of change for them and for their students, in one particular pedagogical area.

    The writers suggest that the Kolb Cycle [Kolb,1984] as it figured ten years ago in essentially constructivist [Steffe and Gale, 1995] models of experiential learning [Weil and McGill, 1989], has been subsequently found to be able to be enriched when widened and become the basis of a socio-constructivist [Wertsch, 1985] approach.

    Questioning by tutor

    Suggestions from tutor

    Input or comments by tutor

    Fig A: The "best practice" model of some ten years ago?

    The paper takes writers and readers from what is described as the "best practice" style of 10 years ago (Fig A) to the reasonably full socio-constructivist model of some current practice (Fig B). This figure describes the position which the writers have reached in current practices in modules with which they are connected, in courses [UHIMI, 1999] offered by the University of the Highlands and Islands Millennium Institute. The perspective in Fig B is one for which they claim joint ownership and responsibility!

    Plan for presentation

    In the time that presenters will have together with conference participants, they hope that all can join in considering four questions (and perhaps more), of which those in bold seem particularly relevant to the overall conference aim:

    1. Did we describe the status quo reasonably accurately?

    2. Have we described the changes over these ten years fairly?

    3. Is socio-constructivism on the increase?

    4. One way or another, has facilitation of the development of abilities advanced in these ten years?

    Contributions from peers In structured exchanges Facilitated questioning - by peers (and sometimes tutors) Suggestions from tutors, for consideration in groups Structured discussions with peers Fig B: The fuller and structured socio-constructivist model to date


    Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. New Jersey, Prentice Hall.

    Steffe, L., and Gale, J (eds) (1995) Constructivism in Education. Hillsdale, NJ., Erlbaum University of the Highlands and Islands Millennium Project (1999) Towards a learning strategy for the University of the Highlands and Islands. Report of the Learning Technology and Environments group.

    Weil, S.W., and McGill, I (1989) Making Sense of Experiential Learning. Buckingham, Open University Press

    Wertsch, J (1985) Vygotsky and the social formation of mind. Massachusetts, Harvard University Press.