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The learning cycle: review and plan

Paddy Upton discusses the review and plan stages in the experiential learning cycle.
The learning cycle review stage, between doing and thinking
© Deakin University

Engaging people in reviewing and planning empowers them to make their own decisions about what they need to do to enhance their performance.

We turn our attention to the experiential learning cycle which was introduced in Coaching in the Knowledge Era.

For the purposes of this course, the focus is on the review and plan stages.

In order to learn from a game, some sort of post-game review is required, whether that’s watching a video of the match, checking statistics or match-report, or discussing the game with someone who watched it.

There are two aspects to this review: a third party view of what other people saw or the video cameras captured, and a first person view of the athlete’s experience.

After reviewing, the next step is to look ahead to the next game and formulate a plan or strategy. Important information to consider in the planning phase includes:

  • learning from past performances
  • gaining knowledge of the upcoming opponents (or competitors in the business context)
  • understanding conditions under which the game will be played (or understanding the markets in business) and then
  • identifying your own strengths or advantages.

Considering this information in devising a plan will give the coach and players the best chance of success.

Once the plan’s been formulated, athletes go onto the training field to practise according to that plan. In business, the plan might be tested in a pilot project or scrutinised by others or employees might receive relevant training.

After practising, the plan is then implemented in the next game, and the learning cycle continues. It’s important to note that the review and planning stages of the learning cycle are more physically passive processes, requiring thinking, where the practice and play aspects are the physically active processes where the athletes are honing and executing their skills and team strategies.

The importance of this distinction will hopefully become evident as we explore who’s doing the thinking, the reviewing and the decision-making in the planning phase, and who’s making decisions in the relationship between coach and athletes, or leader and employees.

This leads us to the two different coaching approaches: coach-centred and player-centred.

Table 1 sets out some of the fundamental differences between each of these approaches.

Coach-centred Player-centred
In-control expert Athlete at the centre
Does the thinking and telling Coach helps develop the player
Knows what’s best for players Coach asks players what they require
Sets the agenda Coach listens
Coach makes decisions and issues instructions; players memorise and follow instructions Players are involved in decision-making

Coaches who employ a coach-centred approach will feel the need to be in control. In this approach, coaches assume the role of expert, of knowing what’s best for the players, and take it upon themselves to make decisions and issue instructions. The players’ job is to memorise and then follow those instructions.

The coach sets the agenda, which is most commonly about winning. (This is understandable, as most of us coaches are judged, hired and fired based on results, even though this remains a woefully incomplete and narrow measure of success. It’s like measuring a business person’s success on how much money they make… and I’m not sure how much I subscribe to that idea either.)

A player-centred approach places the athlete at the centre of the focus, with the coach’s primary role being to develop the player as an athlete and as a whole person based on the player’s needs and goals for performance, and for their life. Instead of doing all the thinking and telling, in this approach the coach asks players what they require and then listens to their answers.

While winning is undeniably one measure of success, it isn’t the only measure; a player-centred approach includes success in areas such as the player’s improvement in skill or learning, their personal growth, autonomy or the ability to make smarter decisions, both on and off the sporting field.

Your task

Imagine you’re trying to convince the head coach, a senior leader in your work or your school principal (if you are a teacher) of a need to move more towards a player-centred approach to coaching/leading/teaching.

What arguments might you use to sway their thinking? What are the benefits of a player-centred approach for individuals as well as for the team as a whole?

© Deakin University
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Player-centred Coaching

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