Designing learning, learning cycles and styles

I’m probably at risk of writing about my experiences in this blog post which rail against given methods of learning design. It’s quite likely to be heretical and quite potentially blasphemous.

You see, I haven’t used the L&D Cycle, Learning Cycle or Learning Styles for any of my learning design for years. They just started to lose relevance to everything I was doing in the learning space.

When I was arranging for open mic sessions to take place, there was no following of the L&D Cycle. I didn’t carry out and LNA across the business. I didn’t design a full learning solution. I definitely didn’t consider how I was going to measure the impact of that learning solution. I just made it happen. It happened. It continued to happen as a valued business activity.

When I’m designing a course ready for delivery, I’m not concerned about Learning Styles. I develop the content first. That’s always my starting point. Get the content right, and then I can concentrate on other aspects of the course. Where can I include exercises to help people connect the dots? Where can I encourage debate or discussion to cultivate development of understanding of the topic? What am I asking people to do with the content, and how am I going to support them after?

I couldn’t even tell you the last time I used the Learning  Cycle to help me design or prepare for a learning session.

I’ve been designing some e-learning recently and I’ve been highly focused on keeping the copy and text light, creating interactive learning pieces such as watching a video or listening to some audio, and using text boxes to help provide further information as options as opposed to mandatory reading. I don’t care about testing knowledge at the end, I just want someone to complete the thing and relay their experience to me. So far, the work my colleague Kate has done with this is showing that this approach to designing our own courseware has been highly appreciated by people and they enjoy the e-learning.

At one time, those models mentioned above had relevance. They held an attraction and they provided a useful model or thinking on how to design a good learning session. Some, though, like learning styles and learning cycle have since been discredited in academic circles for having no tangible difference on learning outcomes. I mean that’s quite damning. So why would we continue to use them in the learning context?

It’s quite likely I do have methodology to how I design learning interventions. These days, though it tends to be less about which learning theory I’m using to design with, and more about getting the right outcomes. When you add in blended learning options too, then it starts to become unwieldy to consider how each element meets a part of a cycle or a style. There’s far too much fun to be had in getting people doing things, reflecting on their learning, sharing their learning and improving performance as a result. Maybe that’s using learning styles, etc, but I think it’s moved beyond that to be about useful learning experiences.

I just haven’t found a way to categorise that as a concept. When I do, or when you do, I bag the right for commercialising it.


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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

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