What is Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle?

Professional Development

Have you ever wondered how experience shapes the way we learn and grow? This blog delves into David Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle, a transformative framework designed to elevate your learning journey and drive greater outcomes. 

Let’s explore how it can be used to enhance every learning experience!

Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle is made up of four specific stages of learning. The learners progress through a four-stage cycle that includes 

  • Experiencing
  • Reflecting
  • Thinking
  • Acting upon those experiences through experimentation. 

The cycle begins with the learner participating in practical hands-on experiences followed by self-reflection about those experiences. Based on these reflections the learner thinks about possible solutions before developing and testing their own abstract concepts that lead to fresh new experiences. The cycle is based on the principle that learning continues to occur through an individual's ongoing interaction with their environment. 

Experimental Learning Cycle

Let’s take a look at each of the four stages of Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle. 

Stage 1: Concrete Experience

The first stage of Kolb's Learning Cycle is all about doing. This is where the learner directly participates in hands-on experiences without any preconceived ideas or expectations. The learner will experience first-hand the processes required for completing the task including any challenges and unexpected obstacles that may occur. 

Stage 2: Reflective Observation

The second stage of the cycle requires the learner to reflect on the experiences that they've just had, and to analyse them from different perspectives. Here they're able to identify the things that worked well, the challenges they were faced with, and the areas of performance that could potentially be improved. 

Stage 3: Abstract Conceptualisation

Stage three of the experiential learning cycle is all about abstract conceptualisation. This is where the learner thinks about the initial experience, and the reflection to identify why problems and challenges occurred. The learner is then able to apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills to develop new ideas, concepts and potential solutions to the challenges they faced during the initial experience. 

Stage 4: Active Experimentation

The fourth stage of the cycle is called the active experimentation stage. This is where the learners can plan to apply what they've already learned to new situations This is done by attempting to pre-empt and eliminate potential issues that may occur by experimenting with the potential solutions that have been developed in the previous three stages. Experimenting with these newly developed ideas and concepts leads the learner back to the “Concrete Experience” stage where Kolb's Learning Cycle begins again. 

By including relevant real-world activities and experiences for learners at the concrete experience stage of the Learning Cycle, learners will be set up to transition through the remaining three stages where they'll reflect on, and learn from, their experiences. Learners will develop the ability to conceptualise new ways to experiment with what they have learned in new situations. 

If a career as a trainer in Vocational Education is something you're interested in, why not reach out to one of our Course Advisors to see just how you can get started.

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