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Experiential Learning Theory: Gaining New Knowledge

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 2073 words Published: 4th May 2017

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Knowledge is the most valuable asset u can achieve in a life, once achieved it can never be destroyed and it’s never late to learn and learning is a life long process. There is a very meaningful Indian proverb which says “Experience is the best teacher” and yes it is true and Kolb’s experiential learning theory support this proverb.

David Kolb was born in 1939, finished his studies from Harvard in 1967, later David Kolb and his associate Roger Fry introduced the Experiential learning theory which is still used as important reference literature whenever and where topic learning style comes to discussion. Besides his work on experiential learning theory he also have made tremendous contribution in understanding organizational behavior also showed his keen interest social change and individual nature. As per David Kolb vision “learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping experience and transforming it.”(Donald Clark, 2008) {http://nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/styles/kolb.html} David Kolb stated that experiential learning mainly consist of six characteristic and they are as follows,

Learning is best conceived as a process, not in terms of outcomes.

Learning is a continuous process grounded in experience.

Learning requires the resolution of conflicts between dialectically opposed modes of adaptation to the world

Learning is a holistic process of adaptation to the world.

Learning involves transactions between the person and the environment

Learning is the process of creating knowledge that is the result of the transaction between social knowledge and personal knowledge. (Donald Clark, 2008)

To brief about Kolb’s experiential learning it mainly consist of four stage learning cycle, which distinguish his method from rest of the learning style and this gives a two view of Individual learning styles which after sometime he called it as “Learning Styles Inventory” (LSI). David Kolb’s learning model forms a quadrant which is supported by two continuums, that is, processing continuum and perception continuum. These are classified on the bases how people prefer to learn for example, when a person attitude towards a task is such that he is preferring to learn by doing or watching it is called as processing continuum and where as his emotional responses is such that he is preferring to learn by thinking or feeling it is called perception continuum.

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Learning Cycle

David Kolb named his model as ‘Experiential Learning’ because he always believed that experience is the core reason which leads to all training and learning. Each end of the matrix formed by perception continuum and processing continuum leads to step of learning process. Steps in learning process are ‘Concrete Experience’ which is related to the ‘feeling’ in perception continuum, ‘Reflective Observation’ which is related to the ‘Watching’ in processing continuum, ‘Abstract Conceptualisation’ which is related to the ‘Thinking’ in perception continuum and last one is ‘Active Experimentation’ which is related to the ‘doing’ in processing continuum. Elaborating on Concrete Experience (feeling) this type of learners learn from some unambiguous or definite experiences and they relate these incidents to the people and moreover this type of learners will be very sensitive to other people’s emotions and feelings. Moving on to Reflective observation (Watching) this kind of learners prefer to take decisions after looking into a matter from different angles and they observe or watch the situation carefully before taking any decisions they tent to look into the inner meaning of things. Next is Abstract Conceptualisation (Thinking) this kind of people or learners try to break down given ideas or situation using logical reasoning and evaluate them and will be very rational and they will only act on intellectual perceptive of a situation. Now the last and final of the cycle is Active Experimentation (Doing) this group of learners have great capability or skill to get thinks done by others by influencing people and they will also be ready to take risk to achieve what they need and will be dynamic. Kolb’s and fry has argued that a person can enter the cycle at any four points but most of the time it is decided by situation or environment from where to start. Kolb’s says that a learner can be the best in a task if he practices all the four above mentioned modes. Following instance will help for better understanding of the topic, consider a boy learning to ride a bicycle in this case Concrete Experience (feeling) will be asking for tips and guidance on how to ride the bicycle from a biking expert, Reflective observation (Watching) will be observing a person who is riding a bicycle and thinking over it, Abstract Conceptualisation (Thinking) reading the books related to biking and getting a clear picture of the theory and concept of biking, and the last Active Experimentation (Doing) this is to jump on bike and start riding and learning.

Kolb’s believed that to be effective in learning there should be proper balance between all these four modes mentioned above and he also believed that opposite activities encourage the best to learn. Later he also found that Abstract Conceptualisation and Concrete Experience have effects on the right hemisphere of the brain and where as Active Experimentation and Reflective observation effects on the left hemisphere of the brain.

Learning Styles

Kolb’s have generally developed four main styles of learning these are created out of combination of perception continuum and processing continuum which details about how people desire to learn. He does not think that learning styles are based on personality traits or they are constant but instead he believes that it is based on backgrounds and experience which cause them to develop some stable patterns of behavior. The four main learning styles are,

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Diverging (Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation):- These people are highly imaginative and creative; they insist on innovation and strive for continuous improvement in their respected field. They are more satisfied with observation, and has ability to look into a matter from different direction, than doing actions and they also have a broad cultural aspect these people are feelings oriented and get effected by feelings very easily.

Assimilating (Abstract Conceptualisation, Reflective Observation) :- They can think over many observation and thoughts and has the ability to combine everything together and then they put these data’s into logical reasoning’s .This type of learners are the one who is making theories , models and interested in making experiments. They are not peopling oriented but more connected with abstract concepts.

Converging (Abstract Conceptualisation, Active Experimentation):-This group prefers in solving problems using practical application, they are not imaginative or innovative and has narrow interests but very good in decision making because they are unemotional though they prefer technical problems over interpersonal issues.

Accommodating (concrete experience, Active Experimentation):- These peoples greatest strength is in doing the work, they are ready to experiment any work given they jump in and just start doing. They highly enjoy risk taking and are very flexible. If the situation demands them to act immediately they do accordingly and full fill the objectives. They dislike thought and reflections rather prefer trial and error.

The Kolb’s experiential learning model is a fantastic concept but as every coin has an opposite side this also has some negative side. Firstly Kolb’s learning model helped in organizing, planning and learning activities but it failed to address the when a person had to reflect his or her personal experience and it also could not reveal elements of reflection. Then some critics argue that, which is the second point, the four styles in Kolb’s Experiential learning styles that is Converger, Diverger, Assimilator and Accommodator are so much overstated and the four modes which are related to the Learning styles that is Concrete experience, Reflective observation, Abstract conceptualization, Active experimentation are not really connecting with the learning styles and it cannot be implied all real life situation and there is other people who come with alternatives like assimilation , memorization. Thirdly the problem is raised by Claire Forrest “The idea of a nice set of neat learning stages does not equate to most people’s reality. The problem is that a number of processes can occur at once and stages can be jumped or missed out completely.” (Claire Forrest, 2004)


and even those stages can be jumbled up together and create and complete mess and leave the learner completely lost. Fourth issue is raised by the critic John Heron he says that the experiential learning is completely narrow and not properly developed and he also believes that the philosophical justification which support the theory is also invalid (John Heron, 1992). These are some of the weakness of the experiential learning model by David Kolb even if all these weakness are there still the model provides as a amazing structure for planning ,teaching and learning activities.

Furthermore we will discuss how will apply David Kolbe’s experiential learning in the tutorial session. Now we will look into how to give training to a group of people who are not aware of healthy living and doesn’t realize the importance of physical activity in real life. For example assume that the group of people is undergraduate student of some university, to give them training first bring or hire a person from a health center and will ask that person to demonstrate how he works out and how his life is better from other people who is not much conscious about their health which will be a Reflective Observation for example brining the some equipments from the health club and showing how to use them and how does it work on their body. Here we can even show the pictures of people took before joining health club and after joining the health club and also share the experience of people who work out. Secondly we can provide handouts or give the name of book which they can refer to have a better understanding about the importance to follow a healthy diet and to make them realize the consequences of not doing so which will be abstract conceptualization. Thirdly the spending time with expert person from the health club, allocation time for students to ask question and clear their doubts and expert himself answering them and giving tips and guidance about the whole procedure will concrete experience. Moving on to final point giving the students a chance to feel and work with the equipments and asking them to join any health club near by or calling them out for some small coaching class will give them real experience and they will be able to feel the difference by their own this will be Active experimentation. Here we discussed about health club it is not only related to the physical body it is also concerned with physiological well being and these health clubs will help to relax the body and soul and to stay away students from stress. To conclude David Kolb’s Experiential learning Cycle we can clearly say that it is a complete guidance to each and every person or individual who are employed or unemployed this guide will be useful in one point time and each and every individual will go through these stages and it also have proved that it has made so many peoples life easy. Theoretically it has many functions like giving structure for planning teaching and learning activates which can be utilized by people who have trouble in learning, whatsoever the reason may be we can say strongly without a doubt, even after considering the flaws, that Kolb’s experiential learning cycle is a great asset for future proposed by David Kolb.


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