July 23, 2010
-- David Kolb has been widely associated with the Experiential Learning Theory. The origins of Kolb’s theory have historical underpinnings taken from Dewey, Lewin, and Piaget. In fact, Kolb (1984) explained that by understanding and articulating the themes of the major theorists mentioned earlier, educators are far more capable of shaping and guiding the development of experiential learning. Above all, these theorists promote the connection of education, work, and personal development. Kolb utilized these connections in framing the Experiential Learning Theory.
Clearly, the said theory is a process. Kolb (1984) wrote that the Experiential Learning Theory defines learning as the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. The grasping of the experience was categorized by Kolb to extend the experience conceptually in a four-step cycled process. The concrete experience and the reflective observation stages are where the learner experiences an activity and then reflects on the experience. The abstract conceptualization and the active experimentation stages are where the learner transforms the experience. Within all of the four learning stages, however, there is a connection and interplay between the acquisition and transformation of knowledge.
A learning style is defined as the way that learning transforms knowledge. Individual learning styles are determined by an individual’s preferred way of resolving the experience and the transformation (Kolb, 1984). In order to classify learning differences, Kolb developed a Learning Style Inventory (LSI) to quantify an individual’s learning styles. The inventory allows individuals to measure preferences for one or more of the four identified categorical styles. The measurement is predicated on the learner’s approach and entry point related to Kolb’s four-stage learning cycle. The results of the survey are utilized by the learner to help them organize their learning experience cognitively as well as organize the quality and frequency. The inventory itself requires that the learner take an active role in completing the instrument. The inventory has been widely used within adult education and transferred to the higher education setting.
Perhaps Kolb’s greatest area of social influence is evident in the four learning styles he identified. Each learning style explains how an individual learns and deals with experiences and social interactions. This can assist learners in developing formal skills to effectively interact with learning experiences and dynamic social interactions.