July 23, 2010
-- Kurt Lewin expanded on Dewey’s Experiential Learning Model to include group dynamics and action research. Potter (2009) brings attention to the fact that both Dewey’s and Lewin’s model view the learning experience as unique to each individual; however, Lewin extended the concept to include group interaction dynamics. He believed that the interactions occurred within groups during the learning process, and this interaction created dialectic tension. The dialectic tension and conflict between immediate concrete experience and analytic detachment can facilitate learning (Kolb, 1984, p.45). Furthermore, by reviewing the learning experiences and discussing the experiences in a group, different perspectives can be presented, analyzed, debated, and discussed. This interaction provides an environment which encourages creativity but at the same time uses the learning group interactions as a construct of the process.
Building on his work of experiential learning and group interactions, Lewin developed action research, laboratory training and training group models. The models were based on a feedback and review process of a group experience or learning event and are used to describe social learning and the problem-solving process. Lewin characterized the models as having a cycle of action, which provides “a continuous process of goal-directed action and evolution of the consequences of that action (Kolb, 1984, p. 21). This approach offers the learner options for directing behavior and increasing understanding of group development and group dynamics.
Lippit (1949) explains that Lewin’s Action Research Model is the most widely known of all models. This has been widely used within education and business settings primarily because the main constructs of the model’s design focuses on the promotion of productive group work and social interaction. Lewin explained that action research is used to study the effects of various forms of social action and research leading to social action. In fact, Carr and Kemmis (1986) describe action research as a form of self-reflective inquiry which is carried out in social situations (p. 162). The model allows for learners to interact within learning experiences in the actual context that would normally confront them. This model can be an effective tool in promoting change because of its design, which encourages social action and problem solving.
Basically, problem solving and social learning are non-linear processes. In fact, Lewin (1948) described these processes as continuous. In support, Kolb (1984) explained that the entire process has a cycle of action, which provides “a continuous process of goal-directed action and evaluation of the consequences of that action (p. 21). The benefit of the cycle approach is that it offers members of the group options for directing behavior and increasing understanding of group development and group dynamics. Also, it offers the learner continuous opportunities to engage in and be active with the approach.
The Action Research Model requires the learner to take an active role in the learning process as well as the review process. For example, if a learner is engaged in a learning experience with a group, he is encouraged to learn from his own and other immediate experience. Students learn from the experience by gaining accurate and open information about the experience and engaging in a shared process of making sense of events. The group tension brings an added dimension of interaction;
however, the focus is on the interaction itself, as well as on the group dynamics and problem solving.
Overall, Lewin's research focused on solving social problems. Lewin was very interested in the human aspect of change. His model propelled extensive studies targeting factors that influence individuals to change. Lewin continued to work on the change process and developed a three-stage theory to frame it.