David Kolb

(b. 1939)

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(b. 1939)

An American educator specializing in the field of organizational behaviour as well as education. His name is, perhaps, synonymous with the experiential learning model he developed in collaboration with Roger Fry in the 1970s, which is discussed in his book Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development (1984). This concept had already been the subject of much discussion, and Kolb acknowledges the work of influential educationalists of the 20th century, such as Piaget, Dewey, and Rogers. Kolb and Fry's ‘learning cycle’, which draws on the work of Kurt Lewin (1890–1947), presents a model of the relationships between ‘concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation’ in the learning process. They postulate that the cycle can begin at any of the four stages, and, as it is rarely completed in one tour, would be more properly represented as a spiral. They argue that it follows from this premiss that the most effective learning will take place where individuals have an equal and balanced response to each of the stages, but acknowledge that most people have preferences for certain aspects of the cycle. This leads to the recognition of learning styles; in Kolb and Fry's model, each of the four styles they identify is based on a preference for two of the stages, as shown in the table.

Kolb's work has attracted much attention; it was, for instance, the basis for the commonly used learning styles inventory launched in the UK by Peter Honey and Alan Mumford in 1982. Like the Honey and Mumford inventory, it has been criticized as failing to take sufficient account of reflection, cultural influences, and the acquisition of knowledge. However, Kolb's strenuous argument that individuals differ in the ways that they learn has ensured that his work continues to have influence.

http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/experience.htm Provides discussion of experiential learning critiques of David Kolb's theory.

V. C.

Viv Channing,

K. A.

Karl Aubrey

Kolb and Fry's ‘learning cycle’

Kolb and Fry's four learning styles

Learning style



Abstract conceptualization and active experimentation: practical, unemotional, rational


Concrete experience and reflective observation: imaginative and aesthetic, interested in people and the ideas of others


Abstract conceptualization and reflective observation: theoretical, interested in abstract connections and ideas


Concrete experience and active experimentation: practical, adventurous, intuitive

Subjects: Education.

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