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Managing your strengths as a teacher

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

In last month’s post we gave a brief overview of Reflective Practice which we described as an essential tool for educators to learn from their experience.

This month we look at three of the most well-known and used reflective cycles address managing your strengths as a teacher.

A. Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle

B. Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle; and

C. Schön’s theories of Single- and Double-Loop Learning.

A. Managing your strengths as a teacher


Kolb’s experiential learning cycle (Kolb, 2015, pp. 50–52) is one of the most widely used amongst educators (2015, p. 52). It was developed in 1984 by David Kolb as part of his Experiential Learning Theory (ELT). The model contains four stages:

  • concrete experience

  • reflective observation

  • abstract conceptualization

  • active experimentation

These have been summarised in the more user-friendly terms

  • feeling

  • watching

  • thinking

  • doing

The user participates in the experience by asking themselves questions about what they feel, see, and think about the event. They then reflect on the process asking themselves what happened and why this happened. They next analyse the experience and try to gain a better understanding of the event. Finally, they apply this new understanding to future occurrences in a form of experimentation.

Although the cycle is relatively straightforward to use it may appear daunting to some. The language used by Kolb is academic and terms such as ‘abstract conceptualisation’ may appear vague and not user-friendly to many educators.


B. Managing your strengths as a teacher


Many find this the most practical of the reflective cycles.

It was developed by Graham Gibbs in 1988 and outlined in his book Learning by Doing (a kind of manual detailing the reflective process with a number of suggested tools and techniques).

The model appears to be a simplified version of Kolb’s focusing exclusively on the reflective process. It has an additional two stages and is more user friendly and precise about the forms of reflection and action to take. Its six stages include (Gibbs, 2013, p. 3):

· describing

· feeling

· evaluating

· analysing

· concluding

· action planning

These stages are almost self-explanatory and further instruction can be taken from the questions listed under each heading.

This reflective cycle is widely used in teacher training (2013, p. 3) and is likely the most beneficial for teachers of all levels, as well as for other professionals.

I find this model the most user-friendly for daily use and regularly use it for analysing educational and non-educational experiences.

C. Managing your strengths as a teacher


Schön’s model of Double Loop Learning builds on the cycles above and introduces

the theories of single- and double-loop learning. Schön believes that a deep reflection is required to stop repeated instances of the original undesirable practice.

This requires one to ask the questions why?in addition to what?and how?in order to re-evaluate one’s assumptions and beliefs leading to a ‘paradigm shift’ in development.

Educators who do not have a clear understanding of reflection and/or undertake it in a shallow manner are likely to repeat the same loop (error) leading to inadequate development.

Schön states that emotion or conflict is necessary for the paradigm shift that occurs in double-loop learning and other forms of deep learning (Kolb, 2015, p. xxi). This is supported by Brookfield and McGill (2007, p. 53) who state that “emotion stimulates double-loop learning”.


Reflective Practice is an important and easy-to-use tool for professional development. It allows teachers and learners to learn through their experiences in a structured manner. In this short overview, you have been introduced to the important concepts:

· describing

· feeling

· evaluating

· analysing

· concluding

· action planning

and to the deeper learning supported by the questions:

· what happened?

· how did it happen?

· why did it happen?

Regularly asking these three questions after a teaching experience (or even in your daily life) will lead to considerable improvement in your practice, and eternal happiness😊

If you want to learn more about teaching, check out our options for you:

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