The Learning Wheel : The Four Stages of the Learning Cycle

( Adapted from the Book by Charles Handy – The Age of Unreason )

Handy believes that it is best to think of learning (see also as a wheel of four parts:

  • Question
  • Theory
  • Test
  • Reflection

it doesn’t end at reflection, but like a wheel, goes back to Questions and so on. It is a wheel because it is meant to go round and round One set of questions duly answered and tested and reflected upon leads on to another. It is life’s special treadmill.

Questions need possible answers, and this is what the second stage provides .. theories .. a stage of free thinking , reframing, speculation, and looking for clues. Ideas and theories are never enough.. ‘dreams give wings to fools’.. the theories have to be tested in reality – which is the next stage of the wheel. reflection is the final stage that includes knowing why.. without it there is no learning.

For some people, the wheel never starts.. they have no questions and seek no answers. Content or Dull – they will not voluntarily learn to change.

There are also those who stick to the Questions stage, who keep on asking – because it is questioning that is fascinating not the answer. They don’t learn, and others don’t learn much from their questions. They are the inspectors or auditors; useful, but irritating.

The next stage is theory, its specialists are the bad academics, full of answers to other people’s questions. They teach the answer first and assume the question.. Knowledge for its own sake motivates them.

The enthusiasts of the testing stage are the pragmatists or the action men – no time for theory or thinking: immediate reaction  – Energy and more Energy – attack with the tool nearest to hand – they don’t know why !

Lastly there are those who are stuck at the reflection stage, endlessly rehearsing the past, seeking better explanations.. One lesson is enough for them.


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