Natural Learning Cycle

Natural Learning Cycle

The following is based on the work of James Zull, in the book The Art of Changing the Brain, 2002


Zull matched his Natural Human Brain Learning Cycle to that of David Kolb Experiential Learning Model. This cycle of learning helps teachers to understand how the brain goes about its learning process and what teaching methods might facilitate that learning process most effectively.


Sensory Cortex         

Receives first input from outside world, vision, hearing, touch, smells and taste


David Kolb’s Learning Cycle


Kolb’s Concrete experiences—direct physical information from the world


Ways of Teaching

First hand—field trip, labs or internship






Back Integrative Cortex

Engaged in memory formation and reassembly of sensory data

Language comprehension

Developing spatial relationship

Identifying objects, faces and motion

Creates images and meaning


Kolb’s Reflective-Observation

Remembering relevant information, daydreaming and free association,

Developing insights and associations,

Mentally rerunning and analyzing experiences

Teaching Activities

Logs, Journals, Summary writing


Frontal Integrative Cortex

Short term memory

Problem Solving

Making Decisions

Assembling plans for action

Assembly of language

Making judgments and evaluations

Directing the action of the rest of the brain

Organizing actions and activities of the body


Kolb’s Abstraction-Conceptualization

Manipulation of images and language to create new mental arrangements

Developing plans for future action

Comparing and choosing options

Making predictions, case studies, problem solving

Directing recall of past experiences

Creating symbolic representations

Replacing and manipulating items held in short term memory


Motor Cortex

Coordinates and triggers all voluntary muscle contractions by the body producing movement


Carries out the ideas and plans originating in the front integrative cortex—including the actual production of language through speech and writing


Kolb’s Active Testing

Conversion of ideas into physical actions or movements of parts of the body


Deriving relationships,

Doing experiments,

Talking in debate or conversation





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