A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how I have these little epiphanies. Last week, I had a major one. I could say, I completed a learning loop. Kolb (an educational theorist) developed the experiential learning model composed of four elements: concrete experience, observation & reflection, formation of abstract concepts, and testing new concepts. According to his theory you have a preferred learning style, but you generally go through all four stages. So, what happend with me?


Well, in my research I applied the grounded theory approach. I read bits and pieces about it and seems to fit me and my research well. However, I had not yet a full comprehension of what it entails. I started my research and intuitively made choices regarding my methodology. Halfway, I found this book about grounded theory and it seemed that I stumbled upon one of its founders, Glaser. Although the book inspired me, I did not have that feeling of completely understanding what he wrote.

Continuing my research, I did my thing with support of my supervisors. Half a year ago I started a writing class. Writing everything down was a major challenge, but it was doable thanks to that class. In class, I received feedback from researchers who have experience with other research paradigms. Only a few of them were used to qualitative methods and non to grounded theory. I became frustrated as I thought to have written my methodology quite clearly. It was written down according to their standards, however, they still gave me feedback it was unclear.

Then I was sitting in the train and remembered that book of Glaser. I found an article of him saved on my laptop and started reading. Then my brain clicked, almost literally. Now I understood! I really understood what I did those years of data gathering and analysis. I really understood why my classmates gave me that feedback. That felt like a closing the loop learning experience.

Apparently, I am the type of learner that can do things well without fully understanding it. I start with the experience, followed by reflection. Probably when my brain clicks, I form the abstract concepts in my brain. After this, I can fully apply and test these new concepts. I find it weird though, but it happend to me multiple times. For example fifteen years ago, I was following a statistics class in my bachelor. I did the things I was supposed to be doing, but I had no clue. I received a high mark without understanding. After graduation I dusted my old statistics book and applied it in a research project. I remembered how my brain clicked, like it did last week.

I am curious. Can you relate to my experience? What type of learner are you? How do you feel about that? How does it work in your PhD?