David A. Kolb created his model of learning out of four elements: concrete experience, observation and reflection, the formation of abstract concepts and testing in new situations. It works on a four-stage cycle.

·         Concrete Experience

·         Reflective Observation

·         Abstract Conceptualization

·         Active Experimentation

David A. Kolb believes that learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Kolb’s four-stage learning cycle shows how experience is translated through reflection into concepts, which in turn are used as guides for active experimentation and the choice of new experiences. The first stage, concrete experience, is where the learner actively experiences an activity. The second stage, reflective observation, is when the learner consciously reflects back on that experience. The third stage, abstract conceptualization, is where the learner attempts to conceptualize a theory or model of what is observed. The fourth stage, active experimentation, is where the learner is trying to plan how to test a model or theory or plan for a forthcoming experience.

Kolb identified four learning styles which correspond to these stages. The styles highlight conditions under which learners learn better. These styles are:


Learning style


Learning characteristic



Abstract conceptualization + active experimentation

·    strong in practical application of ideas

·    can focus on hypo-deductive reasoning on specific problems

·    unemotional

·    has narrow interests



Concrete experience + reflective observation

·    strong in imaginative ability

·    good at generating ideas and seeing things from different perspectives

·    interested in people

·    broad cultural interests



Abstract conceptualization + reflective observation

·    strong ability to create theoretical models

    excels in inductive reasoning

·    concerned with abstract concepts rather than people



Concrete experience + active experimentation

·    greatest strength is doing things

·    more of a risk taker

·    performs well when required to react to immediate circumstances

·    solves problems intuitively




Following Kolb, the best way to learn is to go through all four stages of the learning cycle.


So, in class we conduct class activities where you will discuss a topic, you will do something with it, whether debate it, write about it, identify the major elements, structure, etc. The best way to start is by relating it to your personal experience, whether something you learned in another class, in this course but maybe a month before, something you know because you were involved somehow, or you read about it, or saw a movie.


Then, you will step back and think about what you are doing, and after that you will step back a little further and try to make generalizations. You may be right or wrong about these generalizations. But the best way to know is by trying them out, testing them. So, in every class activity there will be a moment to try out these generalizations. I will be guiding you to try them out. I will help you with questions and opportunities for you to expand. This is the most effective way to learn.


Once you have experimented with the issue, it will become part of your experience, and you will be able to use it to learn about new material. You will be relating this new information or material to your experiences.


So, don’t be afraid to participate in class. Don’t be afraid to be wrong or to say something that doesn’t sound very intelligent. Whatever you say is more intelligent than being quiet. The more you experiment, the more you try ideas out, the more you will learn.