Image source: www.tripleloop.com.au/LearningLoops.html
Simple, clear, and elegant representation of Chris Argyris' model.
"Single loop learning" involves changing what we do: we can solve a problem by doing something different, without questioning or changing what we think or believe nor what we are.
"Double loop learning" happens not when we simply do something different, but when we haveto change our way of thinking. In order to solve a problem we're facing, we need to change something in our belief system, principles, assumptions.
"Triple loop learning" takes place when we change our perceptions and, with them, the way we see ourselves. This is the truly transformational learning that gives way to a new aspect of ourselves, because that part of us is what we need to solve the challenge we're facing.
Let's see an example from an educational setting.
Say we have a 5th grade student who is failing Math.
Giving her a battery of exercises to do at home with a private tutor is doing something new without changing what we think about learning or teaching, and without changing what we are. That is 'single loop learning'.
Presenting to this kid the math material trying to make connections with some of her interests or hobbies, because we think that if we make those connections she will be more motivated and less blocked, is 'double loop learning', because we have changed the way we think about how to learn math, not just what we do.
Re-designing our Math sessions by distributing the time and space in our classroom in a way that allows us to have not just a group of students facing the teacher, but a number of small mixed work groups, in one of which our student can work the material with other kids, making connections to their interests, leveraging their differences in skills and mastery, while the teacher moves around focusing his or her time and energy on who really needs his or her assistance, is 'triple loop learning'. In this instance, we have gone from being a traditional teacher to a facilitator / coach: instead of leading most of the time a class with 28 students, we create "small classrooms" of 4 students within the classroom, and we go in and out of each one of them as we are needed to give support or orientation.We have changed what or who we are.
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