When talking about learning cycles we often refer to the processes that occur while we perceive, choose, reflect, store and retrieve data and information that our surroundings provide. It is often displayed as a cycle, because the new information needs to become a part of the already existing knowledge in order for learning to be meaningful fo student. There must be connections between the newly learned material and things we have already learned. If the contradiction is too big students get confused.
Instructional design aims to improve the teaching and learning processes and occurs before the actual teaching happens. In the teaching situation teachers use different strategies, teaching methods and techniques to enhance these cycles. Some teaching methods emphasize reflection, others emotional input or maybe learning from trial and error. The cycle is still utilized either visibly or behind the scenes, as according to the current knowledge it seems to be the way our brain store the data.
There are different visuals available in the internet about the learning cycle. Most quoted or modified is of course the Kolb's (1984) experiential cycle, which has provided the prerequisites for my own thoughts, too.
No matter where is our preferred phase to start learning (Experiencing, Reviewing, Concluding or Planning), or how well the transfer happens (or doesn't happen), there are certain things to consider while we are setting the scene for learning, if we want the cycle to be rolling and support the learning process.
Honey and Mumford (2000) created a learning style questionnaire based on Kolb's cycle. http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/styles/honey_mumford.html
(Btw, Piaget with his colleagues talked about the same learning cycle and the storing of new information, but with different terminology: assimilating, accommodating and activating the correct schemes - pretty advanced that time, I think, long before the current brain research and possibilities of imaging the brain activity).
More about learning in the book: