by Melanie Greene

The learning cycle

You may have heard about a learning cycle and learning styles. What does this mean in practice?

The work and learning cycle

The work and learning cycle below has been based on research into how effective people learn. As you can see from the diagram, there are four distinct stages to learning:


Each of us has particular preferences as to how we like to learn and how we would approach learning something, if left to our own devices. Understanding your learning style preferences can assist you when you are learning, because you can take action to ensure that you complete the learning cycle to maximise your learning in any situation.

There are two main obstacles to using the learning cycle effectively:

  • We often favour our particular learning styles and miss out parts of the cycle
  • We attend training courses or use other methods of learning (such as e-learning, mentoring and so on) which might not suit our learning styles.

In other words, learning can end up being difficult either if it does not match our learning preferences or if we do not adapt out learning styles to suit the particular learning environment.

Even though we might not be aware of it, we all have ways in which we prefer to work and also to learn. The two are linked, and we can learn much more from what we do from day to day, as well as from more formal learning situations, by understanding the work and learning cycle and our learning and working style preference.

See Identify your learning style preferences.