The Learning Cycle

One of the most precious things in busy Dublin days is quiet time, a few minutes to read, reflect or listen inwardly. In the fervor of our work as teachers, coaches, and administrators, taking time to be present and listen to our students and our colleagues can be a challenge. Likewise, in our desire to give students many opportunities for feedback, and to be student-centered, we sometimes rush them to perform or pronounce on material they have only recently encountered. A powerful experience for me in teaching World History I happened when I read passages of the epic of Gilgamesh to my students, and let them just listen, absorb, and imagine.  A palpable sense of relaxation and opening up entered the room. Their eyes glowed as the rich story enveloped them. And their writing and reflections on the work achieved a level of depth I had always sought. Just as when learning a new language, there is a listening phase, when we can designate listening periods for our students, and create space for them to absorb, they will be more likely to learn deeply and thoroughly. If we can help them slow down and allow them time to take in new knowledge, turn it around in their minds before we ask them to analyze and discuss, they will be empowered in a new way. A learning cycle that begins with taking in new material and listening, moves on to processing, understanding, deliberating, imagining, questioning, and then proceeds to analysis, reflection and synthesis creates memorable, effective, and satisfying experiences.