The 4 stages of learning and how to apply it in the workplace

By PE Admin | Hospitality

Apr 27

Learning is a continuous process

We are constantly taking in cues from our experiences and adapting our knowledge, skills and behaviour based on how we apply our learning. Employees learn through exploring, trial and error, thinking about the experience and adapting their learning based on their personal needs and circumstances.

Employees can draw upon their current knowledge and experiences to help them to determine the value and usefulness of any learning experience. After every interaction, they will mentally map their new learning with what they already know and understand to create new meaning, or reinforce their current understanding.

Example - Complaint handling

Experience Employee

  • Relating it back to previous times they have dealt with complaints
  • Identifying successful and unsuccessful complaint resolution examples

Inexperience Employee

  • Relate to being a customer with a complaint
  • Identifying positive and negative complaint resolution examples as a customer

Through each learning experience employees can create their own understanding by linking their current understanding of the subject or experience and then apply it to their reality.

It doesn’t matter what we are learning as we always go through the same process. The more we think about or practice work-based tasks, the more we refine our ideas and form habits.

Our experience has shown that there are 3 Active learning stages and 1 continuous thinking stage. Through each of the stages of the learning process, we are processing meaning to our experiences, this allows us to use, modify or reject information based on what we believe is relevant.

Active Learning Stage

Continuous Thinking Learning stage

Experience It – We are engaged in a learning event (either formal or informal)

Process it – We continuously interpret our learning based on our current levels of understanding and experience

Practice it – We place our learning into practice

Apply it – Put our learning into practice

The 4 stage workplace learning model

Adapted from Kolb’s Experiential learning model - 'Experiential Learning: Experience As The Source Of Learning And Development' 1984

This model identifies that after each of the active stages of learning the employee is constantly processing the data based on the experience, helping them to create meaning, adapt their understanding, store relevant data, disregard irrelevant data.

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About the Author

I have been involved in Learning & Development for over 15 years in Australia, and the UK. Having worked with a range of public and private business in both private and public sector. I have seen a lot of what works and also a lot of what doesn't. I believe that with the right tools, guidance and support anyone can train better on the job.