Experiential Learning_Key Concepts


Intro: Based on Kurt Lewin, John Dewey, Jean Piaget, William James, Carl Jung, Paulo Freire, Carl Rogers (…)  It offers a dynamic theory based on a learning cycle driven by the resolution of the dual dialectics of action/reflection and experience/abstraction (…) These two dimensions define a holistic learning space wherein learning transactions take place between individuals and the environment.

Six propositions about learning

  • it is best conceived as a process, not in terms of outcomes
  • all learning is re-learning
  • it requires the resolution of conflicts between dialectically opposed modes of adaptation to the world (marking is mine)
  • it is a holistic process of adaptation
  • it results from synergetic transactions between the person and the environment.
  • it is the process of creating knowledge

The ELT model portrays two dialectically related modes of grasping experience—Concrete Experience (CE) and Abstract Conceptualization (AC) — and two dialectically related modes of transforming experience—Reflective Observation (RO) and Active Experimentation (AE).

Learning Styles

  • CE+RO: Diverging Style, best at viewing situations from multiple points of view (arts)
  • AC+RO: Assimilating Style, best at understanding a wide range of information and putting it into concise, logical form (information and science carreers)
  • AC+AE: Converging Style, best at finding practical uses for ideas and theories (specialist, technology carreers)
  • CE+AE: Accommodating Style, best at ‘hands on’ experience (marketing or sales carreers)

Recent theoretical and empirical work shows that the original four learning styles types can be refined to show nine distinct style types (Northerner, Easterner, Southerner, and Westerner). In addition a Balancing learning style has been identified by Mainemelis, Boyatzis and Kolb (2002) that integrates AC and CE and AE and RO.

Learning Spaces_Four theoretical frameworks for the concept of learning space

  1. For Lewin, person and environment are interdependent variables, a concept Lewin translated into a mathematical formula, B=f(p,e) where behavior is a function of person and environment and the life space is the total psychological environment which the person experiences subjectively.
  2. Urie Bronfrenbrenner defines the ecology of learning/development spaces as a topologically nested arrangement of structures each contained within the next. This theory provides a framework for analysis of the social system factors that influence learners’ experience of their learning spaces.(microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem)
  3. Leon Vygotsky‘s activity theory of social cognition for a conception of social knowledge that conceives of learning as a transaction between the person and the social environment. Situations in situated learning theory like life space and learning space are not necessarily physical places but constructs of the person’s experience in the social environment. Situated learning theory enriches the learning space concept by reminding us that learning spaces extend beyond the teacher and the classroom.
  4. Nonaka and Konno introduced a “context that harbors meaning”, a shared space that is the foundation for knowledge creation. Knowledge embedded in ba is tacit and can only be made explicit through sharing of feelings, thoughts and experiences of persons in the space.

Development toward deep learning defines three stages (acquisition, specialization, integration) and is divided into three levels (a three-tiered system of feedback loops):

  • the first level learning is registrative and performance oriented emphasizing the two learning modes of the specialized learning styles.
  • the second level is interpretative and learning oriented involving three learning modes, and
  • the third level is integrative and development oriented involving all four learning modes in a holistic learning process.



Kolb, A.Y., Kolb, D.A., 2008, ‘Experiential Learning Theory: A Dynamic, Holistic Approach to Management Learning, Education and Development’, in Armstrong, S. J. & Fukami, C. (Eds.) Handbook of Management Learning, Education and Development. London: Sage Publications

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2 thoughts on “Experiential Learning_Key Concepts

  1. Pingback: Linkages between research and teaching | connecting data to information to knowldge

  2. Pingback: Unraveling the relationship between learning and reflection | connecting data to information to knowldge

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