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David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory and Styles

David Kolb, an American professor and businessman published his learning styles in 1984 with some inspirations from the works of Carl Rogers, Carl Jung and Jean Piaget.  The model produces experiential learning theory (ELT) and learning styles inventory (LSI).


The illustration above describes David Kolb’s  “four stages of learning cycles” which comprise the following:

1) Concrete Experience (CE) or Feeling

2) Reflective Observation (RO) or Watching

3) Abstract Conceptualization (AC) or Thinking

4) Active Experimentation (AE) or Doing

The connection between the 4 stages of learning produces “four types of learning styles.”  These are:


1. Diverging = CE + RO = Feeling & Watching

Characteristics of Divergent Learners:

a. sensitive, imaginative and emotional

b. have broad cultural interests

c. prefer to brainstorm, work in group


2. Assimilation = AC + RO = Thinking & Watching

Characteristics of Assimilators:

a. less focused on people, more on ideas and concepts

b. prefer concise, logical approach

c. more interested on logical theories than practical value of approaches


3. Converging = AC + AE = Thinking & Doing

Converging learners tend to:

a. prefer technical tasks, less concerned with people

b. experiment with new ideas and to work with practical applications

c. find solutions themselves


4. Accommodation = CE + AE = Feeling & Doing

People with accommodating learning styles:

a. use other people’s analysis and prefer to work in teams

b. rely on intuition rather that logic

c. often act on ‘gut’ instinct

Kolb also explains that our tendency to reconcile and integrate appropriately the 4 learning styles is enhanced as we mature. These development stages are identified by Kolb as:

1. Acquisition – from birth to adolescence – development of basic abilities and cognitive structures

2. Specialization – schooling, early work and personal experiences of adulthood – the development of specialized learning style as influenced by social, learning and organization interaction

3. Integration – mid-career through to later life – manifestation of non-dominant learning style at work and personal experiences.







Kolb Learning Styles. In Businessballs.com. Retrieved from http://www.businessballs.com/kolblearningstyles.htm


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