Kolb's Learning Cycle

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Kolb's Learning Cycle

Kolb's Learning Cycle


Kolb asserts that most effective learning happens as one goes through a cycle using all four modes. Constant use of these modes would also cause individuals to develop learning flexibility. One could enter the cycle at any modal point; however, entering the cycle in a particular mode indicates an individual's tendency or preference for how to grasp or transform information (Kolb, 2007).

Consider a person (let's call her Jane) who is promoted to the position of manager based on her superior performance as an engineer. As a manager, Jane is immersed in a completely new work environment and in the first few months, experiences the stress related to the requirements, demands, and expectations of this role. Starting her learning cycle from concrete experience, Jane would then reflect on the job and even begin to observe other managers to learn how they function successfully. She may also engage in conversations with other managers to obtain as many perspectives as possible to inform her own experience (Kolb, 2006). In doing so, Jane has moved through two modes: CE and RO. Jane may then need to gain more knowledge and reads more about how to succeed as a new manager. As she gathers this information, she comes up with her own ideas and concepts of how to succeed. At this stage, Jane is engaging in the AC mode and develops her own working theories of successful behaviors for her new role. Finally, Jane decides to act by incorporating these new behaviors in her job by engaging in the AE mode. As she now interacts with her environment and employs these new behaviors, she engages in concrete experience and the cycle continues (Kolb, 2008).

Experiential Learning Theory of Development

The experiential learning theory of development is a fundamental part of Kolb's experiential learning theory (ELT). Although ELT deals with learning along the four modes (CE, RO, AC, and AE), it is a process whereby development occurs—particularly from the interaction between personal and social knowledge. In this theory, Kolb also states that the human developmental process is divided into three broad developmental stages: acquisition, specialization, and integration. In the acquisition stage, an individual embarks on acquiring the basic learning abilities and cognitive structures that lead toward a sense of self. Hence in this stage, one is registering, differentiating, and expanding one's sense of self.

Formal higher education and career training influence the specialization ...
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