An insight into enriching our adventures by combining the basics of ecology and learning
Our sensory input from the outside world, in forms of vision, smell, taste, touch and hearing can often be overlooked and could now be the missing link that connects and improves our concrete experiences, thus improving our adventures.
Kolbs’ learning cycle relies on the ideas of Dewey and Piaget et.al in the study of human learning. The cycle is based around learning originating from a concrete experience (hence the term ‘experimental learning’). But experience is just the start and requires time for reflection, development of understanding and of course testing that understanding.
To put this in more context, the practices, conditions and, environments that our brain engages with, significantly connects biology with how we learn, which enriches how we see the world.
The sensory cortex of the brain first receives its input by what we are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching, this matches the initial concrete experience with Kolbs’ learning cycle. The integrative cortex of the brain is engaged in memory formation which enables us to create images and apply meaning. This function is aligned with reflective practice and includes remembering information captured in our minds eye, developing insights or associations, and mentally processing the concrete experience.
This concept is not new and has served us for many years so we can integrate facts and identify if this means danger to us. Our survival machine is regulated all by itself. Our brain wants to be safe and satisfied. Take this image of Chepstow train station:
The solid white line warns us of danger and engages the fight or flight region of the brain called the amygdala. The event of standing too close, slipping, tripping or simply not paying attention when close to the edge of the platform sends a warning flag that something bad is going to happen and we must react. Without any conscious input from us, our brain is at the ready.
Why do we need a reminder?
From March 2020 until not that long ago, we forced a new concept on our brains – reduced stimulation. National lockdown, self-isolation, minimum social contact, and social distancing has dramatically impacted our concrete experiences and physical information from the world around us.
The power of experimental learning is supported by rich images and experiences stored in our brain. They make their way undiluted and direct, firing signals to different neurons in the sensory part of the brain, which influences the emotional brain and adds value to the experience. This provides us with a clearer ability to think and proactively seek new opportunities. When we reduce these concrete encounters, we are disconnecting experimental learning and disengaging all the senses.
When we are motivated and inspired, we have a comprehensive ability to engage emotion. This produces hopes and dreams that connects with our concrete experience.
Whenever we are conscious, there are multiple computations going on in our brain, which maintains and updates currently stored information. Without need for analysis; our brain is aware if anything new is going on and whether our attention should be redirected. These concrete experiences that the brain captures needs our help. We must take action to start habit forming again with time for reflection. Teachers and Professors alike know, there is a need to adopt time for reflection as this is what aligns emotion with learning. This is habit forming process motivates us to repeat the experience, learn, progress engage and feel fulfilled.
What motivates us now?
Learners are often motivated by extrinsic rewards such as grades, scholarships’, certificates, membership forums and even public praise. Whilst these extrinsic factors may get others to ‘do-things’, it doesn’t always inspire a student to learn. A good teacher will try to connect the intrinsic motivation of the learner, to connect what might already be motivating them. By recognising the structures in the brain that provide emotion from a concrete experience, we can start to gather valuable information and engage our brains’ pleasure system.
The Big Wheel, Bristol Harbourside was captured in the early evening in March 2022 as people gathered again in groups, socialised in nearby bars and restaurants, and queued for the big wheel. Their collective brains engaging and stimulating the cluster of cells that causes enjoyment, pleasure, action, or anticipation of movement. We become motivated and we progress towards a goal. Here, this evening it was thrill-seeking, laughing, meeting friends, seeing the lights of the harbourside at night, the street musicians, and the old ways, before lockdown. It serves as a reminder to encounter the outside world again and learn what motivates us again.
The Eden Project provides a prime example of an educational experience that is enriched by exploring the interconnections between all living things. It recognises that experiences and habits of nature that reshape our world. Through the lockdown of 2020, nature thrived and survived. The environment embraced the need for survival and the relationship between people and the natural world.
To continue life wherever you are, we need to prioritise not only clear air, water and a place to grow, but to reconnect with finding and exploring through new experiences. By doing so, we can enrich our adventures, create new habits and recentre the relationship between motivation and action.