Experiential Learning Cycle, Part 1

Would you love to be a better teacher? Would you love to be able to teach in a way that makes an actual difference in the lives of children?

In Children’s Ministry, late spring through summer is a very busy time. Most of your efforts go into planning summer events and the fall, as well as recruiting and training leaders. It’s also a good time for parents, Sunday school teachers, and other children’s leaders to look back on the last year and look ahead to the next.

With that in mind, I want to take the next few weeks to look at what is called the “Experiential Learning Cycle” originally articulated by a guy named Kolb. But first we need a big disclaimer.


David Kolb is a humanist psychologist and, as such, does not factor God into the equation. Instead, all learning (and, thus, reality) is based on human experience and human thinking. Here are just a few reasons why we know this is not true.

  • Romans 8:26-27 — Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
  • John 14:16-17 — And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
  • John 14:26 — But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
  • John 16:13-15 — However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

Romans 1:18-25, 32 (NASB)

That being said, there are still some good observations of God’s creation that Kolb has made. It is with our almighty God in mind that I wish to take a closer look at the way He created us. I will do my best to point out what God’s Word says about these things, but understand this: Kolb’s Learning Cycle does not come out of God’s Word. As such, it is not perfect. It is also open to debate.

Why discuss this in a Christian blog?

This blog is written with Christian parents, teachers, homeschoolers, and church leaders in mind. Our aim is to glorify the Father, break down difficult biblical words and concepts, and equip adults to best teach children the things of God. Looking at elements of educational psychology (the study of how people learn) is simply to provide suggestions on how to better teach children the things of God. Can you go there with me? If so, great! If not, that’s fine too. Check out some of out blogs that teach straight out of God’s Word for the next few weeks. We’ll go back to that soon.

Experiential Learning Cycle Overview

There are lots of graphics that depict Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle (or derivatives of it). Here are two I really like.


kolbs-cycle-of-learningNotice the pictures which seek to explain how the task of learning to better chop wood moves through the cycle. First you try it. Then you look at what you are doing. Then you think about what you did and how to do it better. Then you do something about it and start over.

Here’s another simplified graphic with more words.

Experiential_Learning_Cycle_Simple_705In the next few blogs we’ll explore this cycle further.

For today, think about this:

  1. What is one thing I would like to learn to do better?
  2. What is one thing I want to teach others (like your kids) to do or understand better?

Keep those things in mind as we explore this learning cycle.

Where to Start

The place to start is not with this or any other learning cycle. The place to start is on your knees.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 (NASB)

First of all, prepare your heart. Confess your sin before Almighty God (learn more here) and ask Him to teach you what you need to know. Make Psalm 32 your prayer today:

Blessed is the one
    whose transgressions are forgiven,
    whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
    whose sin the Lord does not count against them
    and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent,
    my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
    your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
    as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
    and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
    my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
    the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
    while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
    will not reach them.
You are my hiding place;
    you will protect me from trouble
    and surround me with songs of deliverance.

[God says:] I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
    which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
    or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked,
    but the Lord’s unfailing love
    surrounds the one who trusts in him.

Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
    sing, all you who are upright in heart!

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