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  • Norman Brook

The Fortune Cookie & Phil Race’s Ripples Model of Learning

I was taken out for dinner to a local restaurant that does Asian Fusion food to celebrate my birthday last week. Whilst I had a glass of wine, the others in our party opted for a cocktail called a Passionate Buddha which was decorated with a Fortune Cookie.

The message in one of the cookies read “Every adult needs a child to teach, it’s the way adults learn”.

This reminded me of the work of British Educationalist Professor Phil Race who in 1993 presented a radically different model of learning.  Similar to Kolb’s model of learning which is commonly quoted, Race’s model is based on the notion of experiential learning or learning by doing.

Whilst Kolb’s model is based on the idea of a consequential learning cycle, Race’s model is set out as an integrated, interacting whole or as Race describes “rather like intersecting systems of ripples on a pond”.

Ripples Model of Learning 1993

Figure 1: Phil Race’s 1993 Ripples Model of Learning

Race’s model is an experiential learning model where people learn by doing but, for learning to take place the learner needs to be motivated to learn, they must want to or need to learn.  Feedback gained from the results of the doing and from the observations of others enables the learner to reflect on what they experienced and to make sense of it.

  1. Want/Need – motivation or desire to learn.

  2. Doing – learning through an experience, practicing, experimenting.

  3. Feedback – intrinsic or self-feedback – what did the learner experience, what were the results; extrinsic or feedback from others – what did they observe?

  4. Making sense – effective learning requires time for reflection – how did that go, what worked and what didn’t, what can I do different next time?

In 2016, Professor Race updated the Ripples Model of Learning by adding two further elements – verbalising and assessing. This is where the fortune in my cookie comes in as Race suggests that by putting what you have learned into words (verbalising) through teaching, coaching or explaining to others enhances or deepens your own learning. This deepening of our own learning continues as we check to see how those we have taught, coached or explained to, have learned.

“Every adult needs a child to teach, it’s the way adults learn”.

So through teaching others we learn ourselves.

Ripples Model of Learning 2016

Figure 2: Race’s 2016 Ripples Model of Learning

The Learning Pyramid which was published by the NTL Institute suggests that my fortune cookie and Professor Race are correct in citing teaching others as being the most effective means of learning.  Whilst the Learning Pyramid has been criticised as lacking empirical evidence, it appears to support the idea that participatory teaching methods are the most effective at promoting learning.

Learning Pyramid
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