Course: Postgraduate Certificate - Tertiary Level Teaching
Module: How Students Learn - A Review of Some of the Main Theories
Page: 4d - Race's 'ripples' model of learning.

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Race's 'ripples' model of learning.

Image of Phil Race

Phil Race

In 1993, the British educational and training developer Phil Race presented a new and radically different model of learning. As someone who was heavily involved in the actual delivery of education and training, Race had become increasingly troubled by the realisation that most of what had been written about the theory of learning was couched in language that reflected the way in which educational psychologists think rather than the way in which the great majority of people learn. He therefore proposed a much simpler, more 'down to earth' model of learning which he felt practising educators and trainers could relate to more easily.

Race's model is based on the premise that the most effective form of learning is experiential learning - learning by doing as he describes it. This is something with which practically everyone agrees nowadays. He also agrees with Kolb and the other advocates of experiential learning on the importance of receiving feedback on the success or otherwise of the learning process, often from other people, and on the importance of reflecting on one's learning experience and developing a sense of 'ownership' - a process that he describes as digesting. He departs from Kolb in identifying a new, highly important element in the learning process, namely, the internal motivation that makes a person want to learn something in the first place. In keeping with his use of everyday terms rather than the language of professional psychologists, he describes this as needing/wanting.

These, then, are the four basic elements that, in Race's opinion, constitute successful learning:

Needing/Wanting - motivation

Doing - practice; trial and error

Feedback - seeing the results; other people's reactions

Digesting - making sense of it; gaining ownership.

Race's model of learning is similar to that of Kolb in that it is based on experiential learning and that it is dynamic in nature, but differs from that of Kolb in that its various elements are not regarded as constituting a sequential cycle. Rather, they are regarded as constituting an integrated, interacting 'whole' - to use Race's words, "rather like inter- secting systems of ripples on a pond". His model is shown in schematic form in Figure 4.

Figure 4 : Race's 'ripples' model of learning

The Race model is active, in that, the 'needing/wanting' element needs to be all pervasive, so that 'doing' is wanted, 'feedback' is positively sought, opportunities for 'digesting' are seized, and so on. He therefore places 'needing/wanting' at the very heart of his model, sending ripples of motivation out through the surrounding layers. Placing 'needing/wanting' at the centre of the schematic representation of his model also symbolises its internal origin within the learner. Similarly, he regards 'feedback' as being all-pervasive, sending sets of ripples into the model from the various sources that provide it (instructors, fellow learners, self-assessment questions, and so on). Placing 'feedback' on the outside of the model symbolises its mainly external origin. 'Doing' and 'digesting', on the other hand, are regarded as overlapping processes that are continuously influenced both by internally-generated 'needing/wanting' and by externally-generated 'feedback'.

Since it was first presented, Race's model of learning has aroused considerable interest among both educationists and trainers, and may well follow those of Gagné, Piaget and Kolb to become one of the standard models in the field.

Next: Exercise 6


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