Written by Kimmo Kumpulainen, CEO & Founder of SkillzzUp

I’m a strong believer in David A. Kolb’s Learning Cycle. It’s a compact and comprehensive description on how we learn. But how does it work in real life today? What tools are available for us as teachers to bring the best of our students? And most of all, what are the ones we are missing? Let’s begin with an overview of the legendary Learning Cycle.

Phase 1: Abstract Conceptualization

First phase includes a student’s current knowledge and all the new information given by a teacher or acquired previously in school, at work or during one’s free time. Teachers can create, gather and summarize relevant knowledge and present it to students via lectures, websites, books, articles, presentations, videos or other relevant means.

Every teacher does this their own way. Skillful teachers can make this information logical and at a suitable form for students to process this new information and attach it to their previous knowledge. Current tools for teachers include i.e. books, websites, cloud based material banks etc.

Phase 2: Active Experimentation

Second phase includes doing exercises, testing or practicing the new information on paper, computer or in school’s training facilities. Teachers create their own exercises, use available training material or books and let the students complete the task using the new knowledge acquired. In most cases the repetition of these exercises is a key to really infuse the new information to a long time memory.

Current tools for teachers include i.e. exercise books and web pages, help of colleagues in sharing helpful training tips or materials.

Phase 3: Personal Experience

Third phase consists of situations where the student trains his/her new knowledge in real life situations and gets personal feeling of succeeding or failing and learning even from mistakes. Teachers can invent ways to create such situations for students in schools or in co-operation with local companies.

Some teachers are more active in this style of learning than others. This activity based learning is getting more and more popular after studies have shown and teachers have seen how well this style of learning works. It gives much more deeper understanding of the subject and is suitable for students with difficulties of learn just by reading or listening and sitting in a lecture.

Current tools for teachers include i.e. local business mentors who give projects to students, student organized events or service situations with real clients and also Young Entrepreneur -programs.

Phase 4: Reflective Observation

In this last phase student will evaluate by him/herself or with the help of teacher and other students; what did I learn, how well did I do, what is my skill level, what needs to be done next to get to the next level? This also includes students view on the success on how well the teaching style helped him/her to learn the skill at hand. Ideally a student should also be able to discuss this with a teacher.

Some teachers give written feedback on written exercises or oral feedback in real life situations. Unfortunately this phase does not happen very often, mostly because it takes very much time to give personal feedback to students. Oral feedback can be forgotten very briefly if it’s not documented.

Basically this is up to the teacher to invent best ways to give feedback to students. Either to have time consuming one-on-one sessions with students, but this takes very much time if a teacher intends to speak to every student frequently. Teacher can also write down comments on email or paper slips, but this consumes very much time also.Current tools for teachers are unfortunatelly pretty slim.

This is why are we designing SkillzzUp – the missing link of the Learning Cycle!

This is my interpretation of this theory and the existing tools for teachers to use in each phase. In my experience the first three phases are somewhat covered with different tools and methods. But what about the last and most important one? Have you also noticed it’s completely missing from our toolkit?

This is why me and my team are designing the SkillzzUp, the missing link of the Learning Cycle. Our goal is to improve the last phase of the learning cycle by creating a simple everyday tool for teachers to evaluate student’s skills, follow their progress and give instant support to learning problems. And it will be made by teachers to teachers – to help us all teach and learn better.

Do you agree it is time to change the learning focus from retrospective grading to real-time skill assessment and self observation? If you relate to these thoughts or disagree, I hope you will comment this blog or contact me. I am very interested to hear your comments and ideas.