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David Kolb’s Learning Styles

David Kolb’s Learning Styles

108634 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 to actively engage in a task rather than merely reading or watching.
  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 of own knowledge. It includes interpreting and updating experiences from new knowledge.
  4. Active Experimentation – (AE): learner applies this to the outer world. It is also known as the testing stage where one applies one's own conclusion to new experiences. 

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.

Learning Styles 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. They have good people’s skills and they prefer the following:

  1. Activities that encourage independent exploration and thinking
  2. Instructor support to answer ‘why not?’ and ‘what if?’ questions to theories
  3. Tasks that allow them to actively participate and engage. 

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. They prefer the following:

  1. Hands-on experience
  2. Instruction based approach where the trainer gives them a set of instructions along with some details about the topic

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. These individuals have great problem-solving skills and preferring application of ideas, experiences in their learning and prefer the following: 

  1. Computer-based tasks
  2. Collaborative activities and tasks
  3. Worksheets that contain problem sets

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, logic and assessing the process. They prefer the following:

  1. Independent tasks from start to finish
  2. Lectures supported by a variety of resources (audio, video and graphics)
  3. A detailed instructional tutorial along with answers to FAQs.

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 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, everyone has their own learning preferences, everyone needs a stimulus or they respond to all four learning styles to 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.

Instructors instantly identify their learners’ preferred learning styles. Learners demonstrate their preferred learning styles through collaborative activities, participation, class discussions and presentations. In online/remote teaching, engaging with learners is very important to know their preferred learning style. You must have a wide range of activities planned throughout the session for students to engage. Kolb’s Learning styles are 

Generally, teachers are able to identify learning styles by observing their students in the classroom. Students begin to show their preference for particular styles through presentations, discussions, and collaborative activities. As write my essay service claims, when delivering courses online, it is important for the instructor to engage with the students throughout the entire learning cycle in order to reveal their preferences. Collaborative activities help learners become adaptive, responsive and well-rounded. 

All stages of Kolb theory of learning can aid learners in attaining knowledge through experiencing the learning process. Traditional pedagogical approaches let learners experience the concrete and abstract stage of Kolb's theory depending on how learners interact. Learners will gain abstract experience when they finish a computer-based task. Allow learners to freely experience each stage and more when you’re conducting a remote teaching course. 


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