Kolb’s Learning Cycle

light spiral

David A. Kolb (LinkedIn) was born in 1939 and in a later life became an American educational theorist focusing on social psychology. He graduated from the Harvard University in 1967 and since then founded the US based Experience Based Learning Systems, INC. He is mostly known for identifying the four-stage learning cycle, as shown below:

  1. Concrete Experience – planned or unplanned new experience
  2. Reflective Observation – active thinking about the experience and its significance
  3. Theorising (Abstract Conceptualisation) – developing concepts and ideas based on the new experience
  4. Active Experimentation – testing these concepts and ideas in new situations

Then, the next concrete experimentation (step 1) begins the new cycle.

In simple terms, Kolb’s model acts as a straightforward description of how experiences are translated into concepts, which are then used to influence the new experience. In order to learn effectively, one must shift from being an ‘observer’ to becoming a ‘participant’. Important to remember that everyone has his or her own preferred learning style, especially for trainers when working with more than one person in the room.

Kolb’s has gone further defining the four different learning styles, which are:

  • Accommodators – learn by trial and error
  • Diverges – learn by reflecting on concrete experimentation with the ability to come up with a vast list of viewpoints
  • Converges – learn by working with theory and experiment with ideas
  • Assimilators – learn by creating their own theoretical models, preferring abstract experimentation

Kolb’s learning cycle is a great model for developing your individual approach to lifelong-learning, which I am always advocating. Keep learning!

Experience Based Learning Systems, Inc