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Kolb’s Model of Learning by Doing

David Allen Kolb(1939-)


  • David Allen Kolb introduced the Experiential Learning Model (ELM) in 1984.1
  • He was an educational theorist and was influenced by Kurt Lewin, John Dewey and Jean Piaget.
  • He introduced the The Kolb Learning Style Inventory 4.0.2
  • Learning style is related to the way in which an individual interacts with learning conditions, involving cognitive, affective, physical and environmental aspects.3
  • As part of their ethical duty, nurses strive to increase the specialized abilities required for their line of work through ongoing professional development.4

Key Concepts

  • Kolb's learning theory fits into constructivist approach to learning as the learned knowledge is mentally anchored by a concrete experience.5
  • Individual is able to learn, create and recreate his own knowledge, based on their lived experience.4
  • Because practical experiences aid in the development of problem-solving abilities, knowledge, and attitudes during the learning process, it is crucial to support the acquisition of learning via experience.5
  • Knowledge results from the combination of obtaining and transforming experience.5
  • Kolb's Experiential learning cycle integrates experience, theory and simulation.6
  • The Kolb cycle is a continuous process of concrete experiences, reflective observation, abstract conceptualizations, and active experimentation.7

Stages and  Styles of learning

  • Experiential learning occurs through stages and styles.5
Four stages:
1.    Concrete experience (CE) - learning by feeling and being involved
2.    Reflective observation (RO) – learning by observing, reflecting, listening
3.    Abstract conceptualization (AC) – earning by use of logic, reasoning, creating ideas and systematizing
4.    Active experimentation (AE) – learning by action, decision making, having their planned action seeking to influence the environment
Four styles
Learning styles are preferences of each individual in the way of perceiving, organizing, processing and understanding information. The combination of two stages forms a learning style.
1.    Diverging - CE and RO
2.    Assimilating - RO and AC
3.    Converging, - AC and AE
4.    Accommodating, - AE with CE
Effective learning requires cyclical movement through the four learning styles. Kolb considers the stages and learning styles as inseparable.4
  • In diverging style, the individual learns best when using simulation, readings, discussions, observations.8
  • In assimilating style, the individual learns using storm of ideas, questions for reflection, lectures, text reading, projects, images, diagrams and models.9
  • In converging style, the individual learns by logical reasoning, applying both theory and common sense.8,9
  • In accommodating style, the individual people demonstrate learning by practicing, facing challenges, taking risks.8,9


  • Learning styles combined with stages allow individuals to learn, understand and transform their way of learning through experience.4,5
  • Recognizing learning styles assumes relevance in the current context in which information technologies.3
  • Experience learning is shaped by their learning preferences and happens when they engage with the environment in the workplace.


  1. Kolb. D. A., Fry, R. Toward an applied theory of experiential learning. in C. Cooper (ed.),Theories of Group Process. London: John Wiley.; 1975.
  3. Campos DG, Alvarenga MRM, Morais SCRV, Gonçalves N, Silva TBC, Jarvill M, et al. A multi-centre study of learning styles of new nursing students. J Clin Nurs. 2022 Jan;31(1–2):111–20.
  4. de Figueiredo LDF, da Silva NC, do Prado ML. Primary care nurses’ learning styles in the light of David Kolb. Rev Bras Enferm. 75(6):e20210986.
  5. Kolb D. Experiential Learning: Experiences as the Source of Learning and Development. NEnglewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-HallJ: Prentice-Hall; 1984.
  6. Wijnen-Meijer M, Brandhuber T, Schneider A, Berberat PO. Implementing Kolb´s Experiential Learning Cycle by Linking Real Experience, Case-Based Discussion and Simulation. J Med Educ Curric Dev. 2022 Jan 1;9:23821205221091511.
  7. Meyer EG, Battista A, Sommerfeldt JM, West JC, Hamaoka D, Cozza KL. Experiential Learning Cycles as an Effective Means for Teaching Psychiatric Clinical Skills via Repeated Simulation in the Psychiatry Clerkship. Acad Psychiatry. 2021;45(2):150–8.
  8. Lisko SA, O’Dell V. Integration of theory and practice: experiential learning theory and nursing education. Nurs Educ Perspect. 2010;31(2):106–8.
  9. Witt J, Colbert S, Kelly PJ. Training Clinicians to be Preceptors: An Application of Kolb’s Theory. J Nurse Pract. 2013 Mar 1;9(3):172–6.
This page was last updated on: 13/05/2024