An Introduction to Kolb’s Learning Cycle
Also see Doug Shaw’s guest post on Learning by Doing
Kolb’s Learning Cycle was published in 1984 and is a useful model based on Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) from which trainers and other learning professionals can learn how to develop their practice. We look at Kolb’s Learning Cycle in our Train the Trainer training.
The Learning Cycle (also known as the Kolb Cycle or The Experiential Learning Cycle) consists of four stages of learning from experience. The theory is that,while individuals may have different learning styles, all four stages must be followed for successful learning to take place.
Whilst the terminology can seem complicated, the basis of the cycle is simple and Kolb’s theory is considered as seminal to how we understand learning.
According to Kolb’s Learning Cycle, the time of having an experience is only a part of learning – known as Concrete Experience. The other three stages are Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualisation and Active Experimentation.
Concrete Experience relates to ‘doing’ or actively experiencing an activity.
Reflective Observation involves reflecting upon the experience and could also include evaluating it, even formally such as through feedback and assessmenets.
Abstract Conceptualisation is making conclusions based upon one’s observations.
Active Experimentation follows one being able to use their learning and plan changes, make plans or test theories – it begins the learning cyle again.
The cycle can be entered at any point, but each stage should be completed. An effective training workshop should be well-planned to facilitate each of these four stages – or offer follow up to include later stages and review their having taken place.
Kolb’s theories were adapted by Honey and Mumford to a leadership and development context and they created the widely used management development tool Learning Styles Questionnaire. This is used to identify strengths and areas for improvement in one’s learning – LCP are able to offer this tool as part of leadership training and coaching programmes as well as other psychometric testing.
Image credit: Ambro