Action Learning Cycles

Extension is often about encouraging people to take action to achieve desired outcomes.  Understanding that action learning cycles most often are involved, can help extension professionals plan and carry out extension programs more effectively.

By taking action, people learn from experience.  Having some focus and reflection during and after action, leads to more effective learning and ongoing implementation.  It more formalises the learning process for people.

Through formalising an approach around an action learning cycle, a continuous improvement process and a learning journey is created

Having focus on actions and being prepared to ask questions and reflect on actions, is the key to implementing action learning cycles effectively.

By reflecting on results, understanding what happened and working out what went well and what could  be improved, planning can be most effective and actions modified as required.

The Action Learning Cycle

Extension professionals can help at each stage:

  1. With planning – what can be done to achieve desired outcomes
  2. By assisting with implementation – assistance in taking actions or by demonstrating the required actions
  3. Helping with reflection – assisting with questions and the gathering of results
  4. With then making sense of things and using the information to help modify plans
  5. The cycle then starts again with new action(s)
Such assistance can help speed things up and lead to improved learning.

Action learning is how adults typical learn, from experience.   By formalising an action learning cycle process, a culture of continuous improvement can evolve and lead to effective ongoing learning and implementation over time.

Action Learning Cycle theory comes from the work of David Kolb and is know as the Kolb Action Learning Cycle, Kolb Learning Cycle or Kolb Reflective Cycle.  Kolb describes the overall concept as “Experiential Learning“.

This short three minute video explains the concept very succinctly.


Action Research

Action Research is an evolution of the approach that brings both the Researchers (the theory) and the farmers (the practice) together in a process of continuous improvement, using actions learning cycles.  For more information click here.

Content Sources and Further Information

Ryan et al (2004) Evaluation and practice change: a private and public sector collaboration . New directions for a diverse planet: Proceedings of the 4th International Crop Science Congress Brisbane, Australia, 26 Sep – 1 Oct 2004

Kolb, D. A. (1984).  Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development.  Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice Hall (Book)

Experienced Based Learning Systems.

To hear David Kolb speak on  ‘What is experiential learning’ click on this YouTube link Published October 15th 2012 by Hay Group Global,