Kolb’s Learning Cycle, Evaluation of the Kolb’s Learning Cycle, Advantages of Kolb’s Learning Cycle, Disadvantages of Kolb’s Learning Cycle, Criticisms of Kolb’s Learning Cycle, and Criticisms of Kolb’s Learning Cycle.

Kolb's Learning Cycle

This study guide is about Kolb’s learning cycle. Use it to develop essays around reflection and reflective practices.

Introduction to Kolb’s Learning Cycle

What is Kolb’s learning cycle?

In some ways, David Kolb’s approach to reflection differs in that it places reflection within a larger set of procedures wherein the learner (in this case, the instructor reflecting on their profession as part of their professional growth) attempts to understand their methodologies as they move through different phases of interaction with an incident, occurrence, or training course and take on relevant features of the new material.

Kolb’s cycle takes its insight into learning processes from experiential cognition, and it is, to some part, an offspring of the work of theorists such as Lewin, Piaget, and Freire. Kolb’s learning cycle is experiential in the sense that it emphasizes the importance of experience in learning. This model is also notable in that reflection is part of a larger set of activities, rather than being the exclusive focus of the model. To this sense, Kolb’s experiential learning cycle might be employed in conjunction with another, more reflection-specific, model of reflection.

The following figure depicts the major components of Kolb’s experiential learning cycle:

1. Concrete Experience

According to Kolb, each learning process, including learning as a result of commencing on an instance of reflection, begins with a concrete – genuine – experience. In this paradigm, our stimulus to learn is derived from having experienced something and then considering the meaning and significance of that experience.

Subjective or second-hand experience (for example, reading about how to become a teacher or seeing a demonstration video) is insufficient to completely grasp the circumstance, event, or skill under consideration. Only firsthand experience can provide the student with a comprehensive picture.

2. Reflective Observation

The second phase, reflective observation, entails stepping back from the event in order to adequately evaluate it. Procedures connected to examining what has been done, the efficacy of the ways being used, and the potential of adjustments or variations to the real experience previously accomplished can all be evaluated.

Kolb recognizes that for some, this is a more biological cycle than for others. Some people are naturally introspective, whilst others must be more formal and regimented in their approach to reflecting on their past and drawing insight for the future from them.

3. Abstract conceptualisation

For Kolb, conceptualization is deriving conclusions from our encounters and what they signify to us. We might then draw inferences from thoughts formed as a result of reflecting on our experiences. We are motivated to make sense of our experiences and better grasp the links between them and our larger environment during the abstract conceptualization phase of the cycle.

This can imply more critical thinking aimed at connecting our work to broader theoretical principles (such as connecting live teaching events to a range of learning theories that may explain them in various ways). Insight may also be gained through coworkers, peers, one’s own past, and analogous experiences. All of this can help us create new meaning from the physical experience we’ve had along the cycle.

4. Active experimentation

The hypotheses developed in the preceding element are tested during the active experimental phase of Kolb’s cycle. It is conceivable that the process of going through the cycle has elicited a number of plausible alternative methods, in which case it may be useful to try them all in actual settings. Fresh tangible sensations will be discovered as a result of such experimentation. Learning must be done rather than simply contemplated; this new tangible experience is essential for learning to become ingrained.

It is not enough, however, to just examine alternatives or be certain that one’s former manner of functioning was the best fit for the conditions. The cycle must be sustained in order to achieve complete appreciation, as we constantly re-evaluate the utility and significance of our experiences and strive to make additional changes.

Evaluation of the Kolb’s Learning Cycle

Kolb’s ideas have had an impact, not least in the creation of new techniques that have drawn inspiration from him. The learning cycle may also be used in conjunction with other Kolb schemas, most notably the descriptions of four learning types that he established alongside the cycle.

According to Kolb, there are four types of learners:

  • Divergent intellectuals: Divergent intellectuals are able to integrate ideas from a variety of sources and theoretical orientations. Divergent thinkers are sensitive, innovative, and adept at brainstorming and coming up with many solutions to a problem or issue, as well as working effectively in groups and handling research assignments.
  • Assimilators: Assimilators appreciate logical, brief, factual methods and do well with clarity and making sense of theory and abstract notions. Learners and reflectors who are assimilators take the time to consider the relative merits of various views and can synthesize content quickly.
  • Convergent thinkers: Convergent thinkers are skilled in problem solving and technological processes, particularly those with real-world applications. There may be an emphasis on technical or technological themes, as well as experimenting as a means of discovering the world.
  •  Accommodating thinkers: Thinkers who are accommodating respond well to active exploration, inspiration, and intuition rather than a rational and orderly approach. This type of learner enjoys working in groups and utilizing the expertise of others to assist their own decision-making.

Advantages of Kolb’s Learning Cycle

What are the benefits of Kolb’s learning cycle?

Kolb’s learning theory is frequently used in a wide range of multidisciplinary areas. One of the most essential aspects of this theory is that each step of the cycle corresponds to a distinct learning style. This is one of the most strong and important learning theories of our time. As described in this study, each individual has a preferred learning style, and understanding this is one of the first steps students may take to become more conscious of learning activities. Kolb’s learning theory gives pupils several opportunities to choose their preferred learning style.

Furthermore, it enables individuals to become more adaptable and to meet the different needs of learning environments. Furthermore, Kolb’s learning styles and the experiential learning cycle help learners to translate information into real and practical concepts or theories. As a result, this theory has played a significant role in incorporating learning processes into classroom learning activities. It is used in a variety of multidisciplinary areas, including business and management, geography, nursing, history, and many more. This learning strategy may also be used by individuals, groups, or organizations (Sharlanova, 2004).

Point form summary of the advantages of Kolb’s learning cycle:

  • Each level of the model corresponds to a distinct preferred learning method. As you progress through the model, this guarantees that all chosen learning modes are applied.
  • The methodology combines traditional teaching with hands-on learning.
  • The strategy requires teachers to employ more tools than merely exposing their knowledge to students.

Disadvantages of Kolb’s Learning Cycle

What are the disadvantages of Kolb’s learning cycle?

One disadvantage of Kolb’s concepts is that his categories and methods are a personal construct and, as such, are stated rather than ‘proven’ in any meaningful sense. The suggested experience cycle may not be appropriate for all reflective settings, and it may also necessitate articulation with another reflection-centric method in order to be relevant. Furthermore, the separation of stages in the cycle as stated by Kolb may be artificial and do not reflect genuine experiences in which various parts of the learning cycle may be encountered concurrently.

Criticisms of Kolb’s Learning Cycle

What are the criticisms of Kolb’s Learning Cycle?

Despite major accomplishments, respect, and recognition for Kolb’s learning styles and experiential learning theories, few detractors significantly attack Kolb’s learning styles and modes. Morris (2020) asserts that the major challenge in interpreting Kolb’s learning model is a lack of clarity in one of the stages of the experiential learning cycle—concrete experience. Bergsteiner et al. (2010) defined the interpretation of concrete experience as “extremely confusing.”

According to Morris’s (2020) research, many instructors or educators do not regard the conventional manner of teaching, such as reading books, giving lectures, and so on, to be a tangible experience or a component of experiential learning. Some teachers or educators, on the other hand, believe this to be a part of experiential learning.

Kolb's Learning Cycle
types of learners

Others argued that Kolb’s learning model ignores psychological, social, and organizational components of learning. As a result, it may be stated that Kolb’s model of learning type and experiential learning cycle has limitations and downsides.

Application of Kolb’s Learning Cycle

How can someone apply Kolb’s learning cycle in practice?

Assume you are a team leader who wants each of your team members to be able to effectively train others. Here are some ideas on how to approach each of the four stages of the learning cycle. It’s important to note that you don’t have to begin at the first stage shown here; you can begin at any point you like.

  • Concrete Experience: You request that your team step in and attempt to coach someone.
  • Reflective Observation: You invite your team to talk about and share what they learned from their coaching experience.
  • Abstract Conceptualisation: You give each team member a book to study that explains coaching theory and best practices.
  • Active Experimentation: You employ an expert coach to mentor each of your team members as they consider coaching others.

Given that you have numerous employees on your team, everyone of them is likely to have a distinct preferred learning style. According to Kolb’s learning cycle, here’s how you may start learning to be a coach based on your personal learning style:

  • Diverging: Begin by learning about other people’s perspectives on how to coach in a group session.
  • Assimilation: Start by reading a book that explains effective practices in coaching, such as the GROW Model.
  • Converging: Read the best-practice book first, but also prepare how to put the theory into reality.
  • Accommodating: To begin, join in and try to train someone, learning as they go.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Why is Kolb’s learning cycle important?

Kolb’s cycle takes its insight into learning processes from experiential cognition, and it is, to some part, an offspring of the work of theorists such as Lewin, Piaget, and Freire. Kolb’s learning cycle is experiential in the sense that it emphasizes the importance of experience in learning. This model is also notable in that reflection is part of a larger set of activities, rather than being the exclusive focus of the model. To this sense, Kolb’s experiential learning cycle might be employed in conjunction with another, more reflection-specific, model of reflection.

2. What are the elements of experiential learning?

Kolb's Learning Cycle
Kolb’s Learning Cycle in circular description
  • Concrete Experience
  • Reflective Observation
  • Abstract conceptualisation
  • Active experimentation

3. What are the strengths of Kolb’s theory?

  • Each level of the model corresponds to a distinct preferred learning method. As you progress through the model, this guarantees that all chosen learning modes are applied.
  • The methodology combines traditional teaching with hands-on learning.
  • The strategy requires teachers to employ more tools than merely exposing their knowledge to students.

4. What is abstract conceptualization?

For Kolb, conceptualization is deriving conclusions from our encounters and what they signify to us. We might then draw inferences from thoughts formed as a result of reflecting on our experiences. We are motivated to make sense of our experiences and better grasp the links between them and our larger environment during the abstract conceptualization phase of the cycle.

Reference

Morris, T. H. (2020). Experiential learning–a systematic review and revision of Kolb’s model. Interactive Learning Environments28(8), 1064-1077.

 

Kolb's Learning Cycle

 

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