Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle

Kolb’s experimental learning model was developed in 1984. The theoretical perspective of the model was that different people showed difference in their development preferences towards different styles of learning. Like any other way, such people would develop different preference to other styles in their lives including leadership, management and negotiating. According to Kolb, a combination of four styles in the learning process determine the nature of the learning styles. Consequently, the legitimacy for learning to take place should be a compound of the four different processes. These styles are: –

Firstly, active experimentation seeks to establish the basis of what could be new in the learning process. It seeks to use the combination of various methods aimed at driving towards the act of new knowledge. According to this process, learners should be professional models when left in determining the best criteria within a package of relevant learning materials. This process involves   discussion within small groups, solving of learning problems and getting feedback from peer members.

Abstract conceptualization seeks to find and conceptualize the relationship between two or more things. This is achieved through analytic comparison between learning analogies, going to lectures and reading learning materials. Abstract conceptualization is promoted through comparative approaches in case studies, reflective thinking and theoretical reading.

According to http://www.businessballs.com/kolblearningstyles.htm, reflective observation seeks to relate the perception brought out through observation by a learner in developing contingent knowledge. This could be through observation of journals, logs as well as brainstorming. From what a learner sees from the reflective observation, the trainer should then provide the most adequate interpretation to learner.

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Concrete experience is what the learner conceptualizes from real life learning experience through an interaction with the learning environment. It involves the use of fieldwork excursions, laboratory findings and physical observations. From what the learner gets from such concrete experience, he/she should then question about the most appropriate area with which such knowledge can be applied. The training methodology involves peer group feedback from learners with directions from their trainer. (Sherry, Lori, 2004)

Kolb’s experimental learning theory is therefore a component of four stages /processes. The model is important in that it seeks towards understanding the different learning styles among different individual persons as well as giving a fundamental experimental cycle that helps in its implementation. It forms the benchmark principle in his learning theory where both concrete and immediate experience acts as the basic tool support of the learner’s reflections and observations. Accordingly, whatever reflection and observations that are distilled and assimilated help to provide abstract concepts that produce new action implication that could be taken through active testing. The final consequence of this chain network of activities is the development of rational experience that make fundamental of knowledge. (Carolyn, 1993)

Kolb’s learning cycle is a representative process, which involves touching all learning bases through a spiral learning cycle. The cycle involves experiencing, thinking, reflecting and acting. Consequently, the results of concrete and immediate experiences would be reflections and observations. Such set of reflections undergo through a process of assimilation which is then passed through absorption and translation into specific abstract conceptions which have active implications. Such a person can thus involve in an active testing and experimentation of what he /she had got from the former process and thus creating new set of experiences.

According to Kolb’s, the preference towards learning styles is diverse for different people. The influence towards a specific learning style is determined by the potentiality of various factors. Kolb’s adequately defined out the three specific stages of development. Elsewhere, the propensity towards the reconciliation within these stages and the integration with these learning styles has its growth and improvement through out the different development stages. (Carolyn, 1993)

Indeed, he has cited the acquisition stage as what comes between birth and adolescent. Here, a person develops cognitive structures and basic abilities. Either, specializations is what comes during schooling period and experience towards adulthood. Here, the person develops special styles of learning whose influence is the state of socialization within an organization and the state of education. The stage of integration occurs during mid-career period across the old life domain. The person expresses learning styles which are non-dominant.

According to Kolb, the influence towards a particular learning style consists the implications of two state variables.  These include feeling and thinking towards concrete experience and abstract conceptualization. Elsewhere, there is  doing and watching towards active experimentation and reflective thinking. The importance held by knowing the nature of learning style by a particular person helps the trainer to give learning orientations according to such specific methods. Consequently, specific learning style would have positive response to specific stimulus needs.

These active training options allied to the different learning styles include the diverging perspective, where the learners have different perspectives to look things. There is a high sensitivity towards learning objectives. Either, there consists assimilation which refers to styles that are concise in nature and which require logical approaches. Here, concepts and ideas make an important aspect. Moreover, converging process involve solving problems as well as applying their learning skills towards finding practical solutions. The accommodating style of learning is relied only in intuition than the use of logics. It involves the use of other person’s learning results in taking experimental and practical impacts. (Sherry, Lori, 2004)


Carolyn, Z. (1993) Topical Article: Integrating Separate and Connected Knowing. The Experiential Learning Model. Teaching of Psychology, Vol. 20

Kolb’s Learning Styles, Experimental Learning Theory. Retrieved on 26th April 2008 from http://www.businessballs.com/kolblearningstyles.htm

Sherry, K Lori, R. (2004) Designing Online Workshop: Using an Experience Learning Model. Journal of College Counseling. Vol. 7

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