One of my favorite learning theories, most contemporary and applicable to adult education, is Chris Argyris and Donal Schon’s ‘double loop learning.’ In fact more recently there has been discussion of triple loop learning and it all makes sense. The first loop we make when we learn something, or if something goes wrong, is an immediate adjustment. If leave my driveway and go to the left, and it’s the wrong way, I ask someone for the right directions (or use my GPS) and adjust my direction so I’m going the right way. The second loop is to recognize some of the assumptions I made that encouraged me to turn left in the first place. Why did I do that? I have to make sure I don’t make that mistake again. And the third loop – which requires deeper thinking – is why am I responding the way I respond? How am I learning to react and act with my mistakes? “Learning with e’s” discusses it in a post. “It’s a learning theory Argyris bases his theory on the premise that each of us has a cognitive map inside our heads – in other words, a mental script to deal with problems and challenges based on previous experience.”
Adult educators should ask themselves how to help people engage in single and double loop learning, and how they can put people in environments that support that type of learning.