David Kolb introduced his learning styles model in 1984 and subsequently created his learning style inventory. According to Kolb, learning is the outcome of experience transformation, where knowledge is generated (David A. Kolb 1984).
According to him, our unique learning styles are a result of our genetics, life experiences, and the demands of our current environment. The Experiential Learning Cycle, known as Kolb’s theory of learning styles, is represented by a four-stage cycle in which the learner goes through all the bases:1. Concrete Experience – encountering a new situation or reassessing an existing experience.2.
Reflective Observation (is the process of examining a new experience, paying particular attention to any discrepancies between the experience and our understanding).
Abstract Conceptualization (is the result of reflecting on our experiences, leading to the formation of new ideas or adjustments to existing abstract concepts).
4. Active Experimentation involves applying learning to the real world to observe the outcomes. According to Kolb’s learning theory (1975), there are four distinct learning styles that align with a four-stage learning cycle. Kolb states that individuals naturally gravitate towards a specific learning style.
Various factors, such as social environment, educational experiences, and cognitive structure, influence a person’s preferred style. Regardless of the influencing factors, the learning style itself is shaped by two distinct choices presented by Kolb as axis lines, each with conflicting modes at opposite ends. According to Kolb, it is not possible to simultaneously engage in both variables on a single axis (thinking and feeling). Each learning style represents a combination of two preferred styles. The diagram also introduces Kolb’s terminology for the four learning styles: diverging, assimilating, converging, and accommodating. Diverging (feeling and watching – CE/RO) individuals possess the ability to see things from multiple perspectives.
They have a preference for observation and information gathering, utilizing their imagination to find solutions, rather than engaging in hands-on activities. Kolb identified this as the ‘diverging’ style, as individuals with this preference thrive in situations that involve brainstorming or mind mapping. Those with a diverging learning style enjoy acquiring knowledge.
Diverging individuals are often characterized as imaginative and emotional people who prefer to work in groups, listen with an open mind, and receive personal feedback. On the other hand, the Assimilating learning preference is characterized by a concise and logical approach. In this style, ideas and concepts hold more significance than individuals.
These individuals prefer receiving thorough explanations over hands-on experiences. They excel in comprehending and structuring extensive information in a logical and clear manner. Those with an assimilating learning style prioritize ideas and abstract concepts over interpersonal interactions. They are drawn to logically coherent theories rather than practical-based approaches.
People with a converging learning style prefer readings, lectures, exploring analytical models, and having time to think things through. They can solve problems and will use their learning to find solutions to practical issues. They are best at finding practical uses for ideas and theories. They prefer technical tasks and are less concerned with people and interpersonal aspects.
The converging learning style involves problem-solving and decision-making through finding solutions to various questions and problems. Individuals with this style are primarily interested in technical tasks and problem-solving rather than social or interpersonal issues. They enjoy experimenting with new ideas, simulations, and practical applications. On the other hand, the Accommodating learning style emphasizes a “hands-on” approach and relies on intuition instead of logic.
These individuals rely on others’ analysis and prefer to take a hands-on, experiential approach. They are drawn to novel challenges and experiences, and enjoy executing plans. Typically, they act on intuition rather than logical analysis. Individuals with an accommodating learning style usually depend on others for information instead of conducting their own analysis.
The terms ‘activist’, ‘reflector’, ‘theorist’, and ‘pragmatist’ are used in various theories to explain Kolb’s model. These terms are derived from a learning styles model developed by Honey and Mumford that is based on Kolb’s work but is different. Peter Honey and Alan Mumford created their learning styles system as a variation on the Kolb model while working on a project for the Chloride corporation in the 1970s. According to Honey and Mumford, “Our description of the stages in the learning cycle originated from the work of David Kolb.”
Kolb uses varying terminology to explain the phases of the learning cycle and four specific learning styles, as mentioned by Honey & Mumford. These four key stages/styles are: 1. ‘Having an Experience’ (stage 1) and ‘Activists’ (style 1) – characterized by being focused on the present, sociable, desiring challenges and immediate experiences, open-minded, and growing uninterested with implementation. Their strengths include being adaptable and open-minded, willing to try new things, enjoying novel situations, and being optimistic about anything new – therefore being unlikely to resist change.
Weaknesses: This person has a tendency to immediately opt for the obvious course of action without considering other possibilities. They also have a habit of taking on excessive responsibility and seeking attention for themselves. Additionally, they frequently engage in unnecessary risks and lack sufficient preparation prior to taking action. Moreover, they easily become bored with implementing and consolidating tasks.
Strengths: In the second stage, this individual excels at reviewing experiences and reflecting upon them. They step back, collect data, and carefully analyze before reaching any conclusions. They prioritize listening before speaking and exhibit thoughtful behavior.
Overall, this individual is cautious, meticulous, and systematic. They excel at listening and assimilating information while rarely making hasty judgments.
Weaknesses: Indecisiveness, cautiousness, lack of assertiveness.
Strengths: Analytical thinking, logical reasoning, objectivity, disciplined approach, good at questioning.
– Constricted in lateral thinking
– Low tolerance for uncertainty, disorder or ambiguity
– Intolerant of anything subjective or intuitive
– Full of “shoulds”, “oughts” and “musts”.4.
Planning the next steps’ (stage 4) and Pragmatists (style 4):
– Seek and try out new ideas
– Practical and down-to-earth
– Enjoy problem solving and decision-making quickly
– Bored with long discussions.
– Keen to test things out in practice
– Practical and realistic
– Down to earth and business-like
– Gets straight to the point
– Technique oriented.
Weaknesses: Tendency to reject anything without an obvious application, lack of interest in theory or basic principles, tendency to quickly find a solution to a problem, impatience with excessive talk, focus on tasks rather than people. I have taken the Honey and Mumford questionnaire to determine my learning style and discovered that I am a reflector. Reflectors tend to observe from the periphery of a group, consider multiple perspectives, gather information before forming conclusions, and allow others to contribute before voicing their own thoughts. Reflectors prefer learning situations that involve observing from the sidelines, taking time to reflect before participating, analyzing, and working without strict time constraints.
Reflectors are less comfortable in certain learning situations, such as taking a leading role or performing in front of others, lacking time for preparation, facing the unexpected, and feeling pressured by deadlines. I agree with all of these aspects, and I believe that this questionnaire has accurately identified me as a reflector. These factors have influenced my learning experience in college. Instead of actively participating, I tend to observe from the sidelines and rely on others’ ideas in my assignments. Unfortunately, this can have a negative impact on myself and others since my ideas often go unheard. Additionally, this reliance on group work has made it challenging for me to work independently.
Personally, I feel uneasy when it comes to public speaking or taking charge, especially if I am unfamiliar with the audience. This lack of confidence hinders me from expressing my valid thoughts or giving accurate responses to inquiries. Despite knowing the correct answer, I hesitate and question myself because I fear judgment.
When initiating or working on a task, I prefer gathering information from various sources such as the internet, teachers, and books. This approach helps me thoroughly comprehend the assignment before starting to write. To avoid confusion, I break down the work into sections so that I have a clear understanding of what needs to be written in order to meet the requirements.
Establishing a deadline is advantageous for me since it allows me to plan my time and allocate specific tasks each day, enabling me to complete the work with optimal outcomes. However, tight deadlines frustrate me as rushing often leads to overlooking crucial details. Although I may have given my best effort within the given timeframe, I believe that with more time available, I could have performed even better.
I identify as a reflector due to meeting all the criteria associated with this learning style. When faced with group situations in college or work, I acknowledge the need to increase my confidence and speak up, despite my discomfort. Identifying my weaknesses has prompted me to focus on building confidence and not second-guessing myself when I know I am right. It no longer concerns me if others judge me negatively as their opinions hold no significance.
My peers in college have greatly influenced my learning experience. Initially, being unfamiliar with my group compelled me to exhibit confidence, actively participate, and engage in group discussions. Additionally, their feedback, both positive and critical, has been instrumental in my growth and improvement.
In reference to Kolb’s theory, my preference aligns with the Diverging (CE/RO) learning style. This entails the ability to view situations from various perspectives.
They are sensitive and prefer observation over action, often gathering information and using imagination to solve problems. This style, labeled as ‘diverging’ by Kolb, is most effective in situations that involve brainstorming or mind mapping. Those with a diverging learning style have a tendency to gather information.
Imaginative and emotional individuals are often inclined towards the diverging style, preferring to work in groups, listen with an open mind, and receive personal feedback. This closely aligns with my own preferences as I enjoy gathering information and utilizing my imagination when approaching problem-solving. Engaging in activities such as brainstorming and mind mapping is something I find particularly appealing.