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One of the founding fathers of Experiential Learning was David Kolb.
David Kolb published his learning styles model in 1984 from which he developed his learning style inventory.
Kolb's experiential learning theory works on two levels: a four-stage cycle of learning and four separate learning styles. Much of Kolb’s theory is concerned with the learner’s internal cognitive processes.
Kolb states that learning involves the acquisition of abstract concepts that can be applied flexibly in a range of situations. In Kolb’s theory, the impetus for the development of new concepts is provided by new experiences.
“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” (Kolb, 1984, p. 38).
The Experiential Learning Cycle
Kolb's experiential learning style theory is typically represented by a four-stage learning cycle in which the learner 'touches all the bases':
1. Concrete Experience - (a new experience or situation is encountered, or a reinterpretation of existing experience).
2. Reflective Observation of the new experience. (of particular importance are any inconsistencies between experience and understanding).
3. Abstract Conceptualization (reflection gives rise to a new idea, or a modification of an existing abstract concept).
4. Active Experimentation (the learner applies them to the world around them to see what results).
Effective learning is seen when a person progresses through a cycle of four stages: of (1) having a concrete experience followed by (2) observation of and reflection on that experience which leads to (3) the formation of abstract concepts (analysis) and generalizations (conclusions) which are then (4) used to test hypothesis in future situations, resulting in new experiences.