A student’s reflection illustrating the Kolb’s experiential learning cycle
Tears of joy rolled down my cheeks when I read what Fairuz wrote in her `Thank you Teacher’ card. I guess, nothing brings more colours to my heart than an acknowledgement from a student on how much she discovered her own potentials through the window of opportunities I have opened up for her!
What is more meaningful to me, this reflection was written by Fairuz nearly three months after the event (consultant ward round) had occurred. The fact that she could still recall so explicitly after quite some time, indicated the powerful positive emotion she would have experienced during the session. Emotion plays an important role in education. According to Sylwester (1994), emotion drives attention, which in turn drives learning and memory.
Fairuz’s short reflection on her learning experience during the ward round, might explain the Kolb’s experiential learning style theory (Table 1).
It started off as she experienced a new teaching approach – when she was asked by the clinical teacher to determine her own learning goal for the one hour session, in the beginning of the round. She admitted that she was never being asked to do that before. She went through a concrete new experience then – Stage 1. She went on to experience the subsequent events to the new approach, whereby she stated her learning goal for the session, presented her uterine fibroid case as a way to achieve her own objective, discovered her inadequacies (incompetence) through feedbacks given and was later guided to include the relevant negative findings as well. This is Stage 2 – when she reflected on the inconsistencies and gaps between her knowledge and experience.
Later on, Fairuz proceeded to relate the new discovery to her daily life as a student. She realized that `…having goal or aim everyday really made me motivated in everything I do. I was able to see clearly and achieved it in a more satisfying way.’ This is Stage 3 – where she was able to conceptualize the meaning of the new experience to her everyday life. This is also the part of Fairuz’s writing that touched me to the core as a teacher. In fact, that might be the most defining moment for a teacher – to be able to provide a fishing rod to a student, so she could fish on her own for the rest of her life.
Fairuz then internalized the lessons learnt, made changes to her subsequent case presentation in the next ward round and managed to obtain a complementary reassurance by another clinical teacher. Her active experimentation (Stage 4) had concluded the experiential learning cycle. She is now ready to face the next level of education which is going to be triggered by another new experience.
I must thank Fairuz for her deep, insightful reflection on our learning session together three months ago. She might not have realized how much she has taught me on the Kolb’s experiential learning theory. Surely I am more convinced now than ever– to treat learners’ emotions with more respect. Just as how Priscilla L. Vail (1994) had indicated : The emotional brain, the limbic system, has the power to open or close access to learning, memory, and the ability to make novel connections.