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102424 views | Ruby | 07-01-2018

David Kolb ’s learning styles model was developed from his experiential learning cycle theory in 1984. These theories have largely to do with the inner cognitive processes of one’s mind. Kolb believes that effective learning occurs by a cyclic process of experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting; which he elaborates through his 4-stage experiential learning cycle theory (1974):

  1. Concrete Experience – (CE): A new experience or a new meaning from a previous situation is experienced. This acts as a stimulus.
  2. Reflective Observation – (RO): reflection on the new meaning/experience, especially on the discrepancy and gap between learner’s understanding and the experience.
  3. Abstract Conceptualisation – (AC): new ideas or modified existing abstract thoughts stem from this reflection.
  4. Active Experimentation – (AE): learner applies this to the outer world.

Learning is an integrated procedure; each stage of this cycle is dependent on its predecessor and follows a logical pattern. Also, individually, none of the stages are an effective learning tool.

LS described by Kolb:

Kolb defines four distinct learning styles in his Learning Styles theory. Individuals favours a certain learning style based on inner cognitive make-up, social influence, and educational background. No matter what the choice is, the learning preference is the product of two conflicting variables known as the Processing Continuum and the Perception Continuum (University of Leicester, 2002).

Processing Continuum is the choice of the way of approaching and tackling a task. Perception Continuum is the range of what is the emotional response to the task, including the thoughts and feelings. The learning styles are highlighted in the following matrix:


Doing (Active Experimentation – AE)

Watching (Reflective Observation – RO)

Feeling (Concrete Experience – CE)

Accommodating (CE/AE)

Diverging (CE/RO)

Thinking (Abstract Conceptualisation – AC)

Converging (AC/AE)

Assimilating (AC/RO)


Accommodating (CE/AE): This 'feels and do' style is a hands-on approach. It is suitable for people who are intuitive rather than logical. Such people rely on others' analysis and thinking rather than their own. They are proactive and are eager to take on and complete new challenges.

Diverging (CE/RO): The 'feel and watch' style is for imaginative and emotional people. These people view a situation from several different perspectives and generate a lot of ideas. They are more people-oriented and are deep thinkers.

Converging (AC/AE): This is a 'think and do' style. People who are technical-minded prefer this. They are accepting of new ideas and like to rely on their learning and thinking to find a solution to practical situations. They also bring up doable practices of theories and ideas.

Assimilating (AC/RO): The 'think and watch' style is apt for people who are more interested in logical-sounding theories and clear explanations over practical approaches. They value conciseness and logic.

Kolb clarifies that distinctive individuals actually favour a specific learning style. Different variables impact a favoured style: prominently in his experiential learning theory (ELT), Kolb characterised three phases of an individual’s advancement, and proposes that our affinity to accommodate and effectively incorporate the four diverse learning styles enhances as we advance through the development stages. The stages that Kolb defined are:

  1. Acquisition – birth to the pre-teenage – improvement of essential abilities and cognitive capabilities.
  2. Specialisation – tutoring, early work and individual encounters of adulthood – the improvement of a particular learning style is formed by social and educational socialisation
  3. Integration – mid-career through to later life – articulation of non-prevailing learning style in work and individual life.

Knowing one’s learning style makes it easier for the correct method to be applied. Although, as stated before that everyone has their own learning preferences, everyone needs a stimulus or they respond to all four learning styles on varying degrees. The major idea is to find the method that fits best as per one’s preference. Teachers are recommended to apply this theory to develop appropriate teaching material and to engage students to systematically go through each stage.

TAGS: david-kolb-learning-styles

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