Theorist: David Kolb

Experential Learning Theory Model

Theory: Constructivism

Timeline: 1939-present

David Kolb is an American educational theorist. He has been influenced by Piaget and Dewey. In 1981 Kolb founded Experience Based Learning Systems Inc. This company provides ongoing research to help advance the theory and practice of experiential learning.
He developed his learning styles model in 1984. The model consists of four parts:
  • concrete experience-doing,having an experience
  • reflective observation-reviewing, reflecting on the the experience
  • abstract conceptualisation-concluding, learning from the experience
  • active experimentation-planning, trying out what you have learned
He created the Kolb Learning Styles Inventory. The inventory helps students to see which of the four basic learning styles best describes the way they approach learning.
  • converger-likes decision-making, problem-solving, and practical application of ideas.
  • diverger-looks at concreate situation from many perspectives, likes cooperative groups and brainstorming
  • assimilator-creates a whole from different observations and thoughts, reasons inductively and creates models and theories
  • accommodator-uses trial and error rather than thought and reflection, likes discovery learning

Major Works:

Boyatzis, R.E., Cowen, S.S. & Kolb, D.A. (1995). Innovation in professional education: Steps on a journey from teaching to learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Kolb, D. (1984).Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall

Relevant Links:

Applicaton to Learning Transfer:
Using Kolb's Learning Style Inventory at the beginning of the course or workshop would help learners understand how they approach tasks and assignments. This information would also benefit group work. Groups made up of learners balanced among the four learning styles would allow the group to operate at a higher level of critical thinking and be more productive.