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Time to complete this module

  • 35-40 minutes

Learning Objectives

By the end of this module you will be able to:

  • Describe all 4 steps of Kolb’s learning cycle
  • Identify ways that your own and your student’s expectations of teaching and learning may differ
  • Explain each stage of Kolb's learning cycle by outlining an example from your own discipline


Watch this short video. As as you watch, consider the following points:

  • Have you ever thought about how learning happens? How do you learn?


Complete the following approach to learning self-assessment. It will help you understand some important information about your learning style


In the comment box below, reflect upon and respond to the following statement, building off each others responses:

Just as you have your own preferences for learning, students may come into lessons with different preferences/comfort around how they interact with content. This may vary in different contexts and may be different from your preferred approaches.

  • Is this important for learning? Why? Why not?
  • How might the way an instructor learns enhance/diminish student's learning?


Read further about the learning process and Kolb’s model of experiential learning here:


Kolb emphasizes the learning process as a cycle, and we will refer to Kolb’s cycle recognizing that it is an idealization. While learning involves all elements of Kolb’s cycle, in reality learning can be much more complicated. For instance, one may jump between different points on the cycle, repeat back, etc.

Kolb indentifies two stages of the cycle that refer to how we take in information (perception). Think of learning in your discipline:

  • What is a concrete experience that might be something you would work on learning (about?)
  • What is a theory (by name) in your discipline?

Kolb identifies two stages of the cycle that refer to how we processing learning. Think about your own discipline:

  • How might you help students to reflect on an experience to find/make meaning?
  • How might you help students to experiment with a theory?

Post your responses in the comments section.


With respect to the learning process, what are two things one should be mindful of when deciding how to teach?

Please post your response in the Reflection form below (Note that these posts will only be visible to your facilitators).

Go Further

David Kolb's model

The David A. Kolb styles model is based on the Experiential Learning Theory, as explained in his book Experiential Learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (1984).[1] The ELT model outlines two related approaches toward grasping experience: Concrete Experience and Abstract Conceptualization, as well as two related approaches toward transforming experience: Reflective Observation and Active Experimentation. According to Kolb’s model, the ideal learning process engages all four of these modes in response to situational demands. In order for learning to be effective, all four of these approaches must be incorporated. As individuals attempt to use all four approaches, however, they tend to develop strengths in one experience-grasping approach and one experience-transforming approach. The resulting learning styles are combinations of the individual’s preferred approaches. These learning styles are as follows:

  1. Converger;
  2. Diverger;
  3. Assimilator;
  4. Accommodator;.[2]

Convergers are characterized by abstract conceptualization and active experimentation. They are good at making practical applications of ideas and using deductive reasoning to solve problems.[2]

Divergers tend toward concrete experience and reflective observation. They are imaginative and are good at coming up with ideas and seeing things from different perspectives.[2]

Assimilators are characterized by abstract conceptualization and reflective observation. They are capable of creating theoretical models by means of inductive reasoning.[2]

Accommodators use concrete experience and active experimentation. They are good at actively engaging with the world and actually doing things instead of merely reading about and studying them.[2]


Link to Complete Bibliography
For a complete bibliography, please visit the CTLT's shared folder on Refworks.

Having problems? Visit the RefWorks information guide.

  • Alice Y. Kolb, & David A. Kolb. (2010). Learning to play, playing to learn. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 23(1), 26-50.Permalink.svg Permalink
  • Ambrose, S. A. (2010). How learning works : Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Ubc-elink.png
  • Bransford, J., & ebrary, I. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C: National Academies Press.Ubc-elink.png
  • Cedar Riener, & Daniel Willingham. (2010). THE MYTH OF LEARNING STYLES. Change, 42(5), 32.Ubc-elink.png
  • David G Ebeling. (2001). Teaching to all learning styles. The Education Digest, 66(7), 41.Ubc-elink.png
  • Gardner, H., & Education Research Complete. (2006). Multiple intelligences: New horizons. New York: BasicBooks.Permalink.svg Permalink
  • Heffler, B. (2001). Individual learning style and the learning style inventory. EDUCATIONAL STUDIES, 27(3), 307-316.
  • Joy, S., & Kolb, D. A. (2008). Are there cultural differences in learning style? INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF INTERCULTURAL RELATIONS, 33(1), 69-85.
  • Kolb, D. A., & Kolb, A. Y. (2009). The learning way: Meta-cognitive aspects of experiential learning. Simulation & Gaming, 40(3), 297-327.
  • Latham, A. (1997). Responding to cultural learning styles. EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP, 54(7), 88-89.
  • Loo, R. (2004). Kolb's learning styles and learning preferences: Is there a linkage? Educational Psychology, 24(1), 99-108.Ubc-elink.png
  • Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2009). Learning styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9(3), 105.
  • Schunk, D. H. (2012). Learning theories: An educational perspective. Boston: Pearson.
  • Sternberg, R. J., & Zhang, L. (2001). Perspectives on thinking, learning, and cognitive styles. Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates.
  • Watkins, C., & ebrary, I. (2000). Learning about learning: Resources for supporting effective learning. London: Routledge Falmer.

Online Resources

  • Howard Gardner, "Multiple intelligences: The First 25 Years"


  1. Kolb, David (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Smith, M. K. (2001). David A. Kolb on experiential learning. Retrieved October 17, 2008, from:

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