Shirley J. Caruso, Ed.D.
David Kolb’s learning styles model, which was published in 1984, can be associated with such terms as Kolb’s experiential learning theory (ELT), experiential education (EE), and Kolb’s learning styles inventory (LSI).
Kolb includes this ‘cycle of learning’ as a central principle in his experiential learning theory, typically expressed as a four-stage cycle of learning, in which ‘immediate or concrete experiences’ provide a basis for ‘observations and reflections’. These ‘observations and reflections’ are assimilated and distilled into ‘abstract concepts’ producing new implications for action which can be ‘actively tested’ in turn creating new experiences.
Kolb says that ideally this process represents a learning cycle or spiral where the learner ‘touches all the bases’, that is, a cycle of experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting. Immediate or concrete experiences lead to observations and reflections. These reflections are then assimilated into abstract concepts with implications for action, which the person can actively test and experiment with, which in turn enable the creation of new experiences.
Kolb’s model therefore works on two levels – a four-stage cycle:
Concrete Experience – (CE)
Reflective Observation – (RO)
Abstract Conceptualization – (AC)
Active Experimentation – (AE)
and a four-type definition of learning styles, (each representing the combination of two preferred styles, rather like a two-by-two matrix of the four-stage cycle styles, as illustrated below), for which Kolb used the terms:
Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.