Kolb's Experiential Learning Model and the Army


Book Reviewer
I am in the midst of an essay on reflective practices and David Kolb's model for learning based on experience (Look here if you are interested). One of the themes I am exploring is how it applies to practical exercises in the army;
  1. Concrete experience. We do a section attack battle lesson
  2. Reflective observation. "How do you think that went?" at the end, as the section commander gives a rundown of what he did and decisions made and why.
  3. Abstract conceptualisation The DS gives their feedback as an observer, referring to doctrine etc.
  4. Active experimentation. How to apply lessons for the next BE.
And then return to 1, to begin again.

My question is, is the post exercise debrief laid out anywhere in a manual or publication, ideally open source? I am hoping to include the above as an example and be able to provide a reference for the civilian lecturer to look at. I haven't done M qual so not sure where to look.
Thanks in advance
Reflection, or AAR, commonly called a ‘hotwash’ in the US. I wrote an essay on it about 20 years ago it was all a bit touchy feely as the emphasis was on self analysis.

However, a quick google has found some official links for you:

you should be able to pull a reference, or two out of those.:)


Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
As @Effendi, it's in US doctrine, not so sure about UK.

They aren't the same thing, but the post-op review (POR) is mentioned in ADP Ops (https://assets.publishing.service.g...l__AFM__A5_Master_ADP_Interactive_Gov_Web.pdf) and the general utility of reflection in the Doctrine Primer (https://assets.publishing.service.g...33693/20110519ADP_Army_Doctrine_Primerpdf.pdf).

If you haven't gotten there already, there is no point in writing about experiential learning if the experience itself isn't valid. A section attack lesson isn't concrete experience: it's a training scenario. That's learning to follow the motions of what we think works, but it isn't being tested against reality. The best you can hope for from a section attack lesson is to better understand what the DS think is a good section attack, and how to do that. This is quite possibly seperate from whether it was the best section attack, or whether a section attack is the best thing you could be doing.

If this sounds like nitpicking to you, stop writing. The wrong startpoint for this process fucks everything that comes subsequently, and not only makes actual learning impossible, but worse, makes us overly confident in bad lessons. As many have noted, the number of actual section attacks conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan were so small as to be negligible. Is this an example of the oft cited "the war" rather than "a war"? Perhaps. But perhaps instead it's telling us something has fundamentally changed about our "a war" assumptions: for example, that regardless of how fit they are, nobody runs fast enough to do a section attack with 30+kg of body armour, kit and ECM. Regardless, by taking the "a war" route, you are by definition ditching the "concrete evidence" in favour of fantasy scenarios. If you require "concrete evidence" as a start point, you have to address the reality as we found it, not the reality we would have liked, or the reality we think might happen next time. Otherwise it's not learning, it's theoretical posturing.

So, given we have fifteen years of operational experience in recent memory, perhaps use a real AAR as an example. Less personal experience or an official report, there are plenty in detail in most of the books recounting a particular engagement / battle / period in Afghan or Iraq.

(Of course, if you're just writing an essay to pad out a CV or career profile with empty quasi-academic acronyms, and don't give much of a **** what it says so long as it grades 70% or above, then crack on).
There is no crib sheet for providing a debrief Following a BE. The DS ideally will use their experience and make notes during the BE to provide constructive criticism. I've not seen in any PAM state: throw helmet at soldier or kick them into a better fire position whilst using copious swearing.
I thought Kohl’s theory was specifically about experiential learning, not taught learning? That is, how a group of people learn from shared practical experiences of doing a task rather than how they learn in a formal teaching / training environment.

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