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Understand that ALL Learning Happens in Cycles

I’ve recently been pondering the truth of the title of this Post: “all learning happens in cycles.”

I can see this truth played out very well in my own study of Korean. Most noticeably, my interests in different aspects of the language and culture have changed dramatically in a very short time-span. You can also see this reflected in the change of daily Post topics on this Blog:

2013 Q3/42014 Q1
TuesdayTOPIKHanja (+ resources)
WednesdayClass ResourcesTOPIK Writing Podcast
ThursdayTechnologyThrowback (from the archive)
FridayFollow-up MotivationFill in the Grammar
SaturdaySomething SpecialExpressions
SundayRock MusicHistory

** Motivation is something that never really changes in its necessity. No one would ever accomplish anything great without a daily dose of motivation.


It’s not like I know everything about the above topics by now. Far from it. My interests have merely changed. And that’s not such a bad thing. Here’s another example:

running-man-small 02.03.gag-con

While I used to be a HUGE fan of Running Man (to the point that I would watch it in every spare moment I had), I’ve since lost interest in it. I still like the show and the characters. But it’s lost its powerful appeal to me. (A major part of the problem is its length – 1.5 hours. With 2 babies at home, I just don’t have that kind of time to sit down and watch something.)

These days, I’m becoming more and more interested in shorter sketch comedy shows like Gag Concert and SNL Korea. The short sketches are ideal now because I can sit down and watch a little bit, but not feel like I’m missing anything if I have to cut the video short and not finish it. I also find that the Korean phrases used in these comedy sketches:

  1. Tend to be shorter
  2. More idiomatic and intentionally silly
  3. Repetitive (usually the name of the sketch is derived from the phrase that is repeated a dozen times or so throughout)

The Natural Cycle of Changing Interests

As you can see, interests naturally change for a variety of reasons. And there are at least three things we should remember about this natural cycle of changing interests:

  1. Just because our interests have changed doesn’t mean that our initial interests were wrong or actually boring. We can (and should) return to those interests later on for our own enjoyment of them as well as to solidify, review, and enhance what we’ve learned from them.
  2. New interests provide new opportunities for growth and development in areas we haven’t yet been exposed to or stimulated in.
  3. New interests are inherently motivating due to their novelty and keep us from getting stuck in a harmful “same-old, same-old” pattern of study.

It’s actually important to mix things up every once in a while. Just like athletes need different exercises to stimulate more rapid and complete muscular growth, our brains also require occasional change to refresh and enhance them.

After all, if your brain continuously studies the same material in the same manner, your neurons will traverse the same synapses again and again. While this is a good way to establish habits, it does not increase the inter-connectedness within your brain. And while you may be able to easily solve the same problems with the same methods again and again, it does nothing to stimulate new “outside-the-box” thinking. When a new problem presents itself that isn’t within your immediate periphery, you will have few resources available to help you reach a new solution.

Learning Cycles

There are two major types of Learning Cycle concepts that people are familiar with based on David A. Kolb’s ideas about learning. But for our purposes, I’ll look at the 5E Learning Cycle. It can also give you a few good tips to spark your own extended learning::

5E Learning Cycle

  1. Engage: capture interest, pique curiosity
  2. Explore: construct knowledge through questioning and observing
  3. Explain: explain what you’ve learned to others
  4. Extend: apply what you’ve learned in different/similar settings
  5. Evaluate: assess your learning, the truth of it, the cycle of it

Spark Your Learning Cycle

1. Engage

Here’s a great TED video about piquing curiosity.

First, find something new, unique, original, sensational, or wonderful that makes you curious. For me now, this is:

  1. Hanja
  2. History
  3. Expressions

2. Explore

When I was initially interested in Korean Rock music, I spent every Sunday morning from 5-8am scouring the Internet for videos and watching Arirang’s series “Rock on Korea.”

Another good way to explore (and something I’m currently doing) is to make a list of the topics related to that your new interest. For me, this means finding:

  1. A full list of the 1800 Hanja required by Korean schools
  2. A full list of the 100 “Most Awesome” Koreans in history
  3. A book with over 400 Expressions

3. Explain

That’s why blogging is so useful. You take what you’re learning and share it with others because it enhances your own learning!

Keep your eyes on our blog Categories dedicated to:

  1. Hanja
  2. History
  3. Expressions

4. Extend

After learning (above), you need application in different situations and different contexts in order to solidify what you’ve learned. For me, that means:

  1. Writing sentences with hanja using the Grammar patterns I fill in on Fridays.
  2. Adding a short “History Lesson” (in Korean) to our Wednesday Writing podcast.
  3. Sharing our Visual Expressions on Facebook and Tumblr while also trying to use same those expressions with my wife.

5. Evaluate

And finally, at the end of it all, reflect, review, and TEST yourself. For me personally, I like to check my knowledge of certain interesting Korean subjects against the knowledge of my Korean students. Sometimes I know more than they do on certain subjects (like Indie/Rock Music and some history). And when I don’t know more than them, they can help open my eyes to even more new directions to explore within my interests.


  • All learning is a process that happens in cycles. Sometimes you’re interested in one thing, sometimes you lose interest. If you lose interest, move on and find something else to be excited about.
  • All learning is slower than you wish, but faster than you realize. Everyone wants to be an expert yesterday. But nobody will be an expert in anything if they don’t apply themselves to the learning daily. If you can discipline yourself, you’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish in one short year. Always take time to reflect on the previous year and what you’ve learned. It’ll help give you direction for the year to come.

Happy New Year!~ (again… Lunar New Year…) 새해 복 많이 받으세요!~


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