Learning is a verb, it isn’t a noun.

This is the latest instalment in a ‘diablogue’ a dialogue between two minds (mine and Joel Seath’s). From now on I’ll categorise or dialog blogs in the category ‘diablog’ sub-category ‘diablog with Joel Seath’. That will make them easier to track.

Joel, you picked up on  what I said about RP – ‘highly individualised/customised cycles’ and such. I had to re-read what I had written to understand it as the context for your comments. I realise that my brevity has once again misled (I like being misled, but it is an ‘issue’ for brevity).

When I was at LGMB I ran a project on organisational learning (which led to my book)  – do organisations learn? how? This meant that I had to study learning some more, I already had a degree in psychology and training and development qualification so I had already studied how we learn quite a bit. Kolb’s learning cycle (http://www.businessballs.com/kolblearningstyles.htm great website, btw) often cropped up. Then I met Erskine Grant who told me two things: 1- that Maslow was a pillock and 2- he added an extra phase ‘publishing’ to the Kolb cycle, immediately after ‘experience’.

So my view on individualised learning is this:

a – I think the modified Kolb is a good description of the process as it exists for most people. Most people have a nose and 2 eyes and a mouth.
b – I think how people go about doing each stage is as varied as the human face
c – there’s a danger, which the majority seem to fall into to read Kolb as Cosmo-style personality test thing. This isn’t helped by the Honey/Mumford idea of ‘your learning style’ derived from Kolb. Although the trainers say that we need to go all round the cycle, nobody takes any notice – they do the test and exclaim ‘I’m an active experimenter! or I’m a diverger’ or whatever.

The reality is that we can’t really avoid going round the cycle, because that is human learning, but we do have a tendency to focus in our favourite mode. All this is explained in that weblink, which includes, I am reminded, the backlash against ‘learning styles’ in UK education. A backlash which, IMHO, is fully justified.

What has to be present as we learn is ‘being present’! If we don’t pay attention to our learning, if we just go through the motions, stuck in the mode that feel comfortable in, then that’s, erm, not very good.

What is important, as you highlight, is that we must, we must pay attention to, and we must put the work in to develop our own ‘highly individualised/customised cycles’ of learning.

RP isn’t a recipe we can follow in a book, it is a PROCESS, a CYCLE.

LEARNING isn’t a thing, a ‘learning point’, it is a PROCESS.

Unfortunately this has all been lost in the business world and in training and development,where you now see foolish chat about:

– what are the key learning points to take away?
– what is are the learnings?

(and this one, heard just now-


– on the radio:

“… I’m sure lessons need to be learned but …”

This trope emerges when someone wants to close something rather than open it. It signifies a mindset which sees learning as an interruption to everyday life, rather than as a vital process within everyday life.

And this reminds me that I ought to post some carsean thinking here soon.)

As a writer I have prejudices. Generally I prefer verbs to nouns. Learning is a verb, it isn’t a noun.

One thought on “Learning is a verb, it isn’t a noun.

  1. First things first in their proper place: Maslow was a pillock (SSS – that’s a newly invented SMS acronym: suppresses small smile!)

    Now that that’s out of my system . . .

    I rather liked the possibility of highly individualised/customised cycles of quirky additions to Kolb (even if my drift wasn’t in line with your intention in the writing!) By and by though, the idea is still intact: that is, if I read these latest thoughts of yours correctly, using the analogy of the human face then the progressing is still an individualised affair.

    Yes, it is in the verbage, rather than the nounage. Except . . . playing the pedantic card in the spirit of conversational keepy-ups, process can be used as a noun.

    Perhaps the novice reflectioneer could also merely be processing themselves about their cycles: sausage meat in the cyclical system.

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