Experiential learning according to Kolb’s learning cycle

All experiential learning – and there for all our assignments – touches on David Kolb’s learning cycle. This incorporates the four main stages of learning: experiencing, reflecting, conceptualising and experimenting. 

To provide scientific meaning to the power of experiential learning, David Kolb developed his famous learning circle. The circle shows the four most common learning styles. Although some debate about Kolb’s view of learning exists, we like to use it as the fundamental starting point on which we continue to build our way of working.  

Kolb's learning cycle

In summary, the core activity of each part of the cycle boils down to: 

  • Concrete experience / action (feeling)
    Centred around experiencing reality  
  • Reflective observation (watching)
    Reflecting on observed reality. 
  • Abstract conceptualizing (thinking)
    Evaluating the extent to which the experiences and reflections associated with one action correspond to earlier findings. 
  • Active experimentation (doing)  Testing whether the assumption – the model, the approach – holds up in reality. 

Completing the cycle 

In experiential learning, the learning process starts with the experience and must then go through all phases of the cycle. Sustainable learning can only be achieved by completing the entire cycle.

Four learning styles

The cycle is built on two axes; the vertical axis running from concrete (top) to abstract (bottom) and the horizontal axis running from active (left) to passive (right). From here out, Kolb outlines four different styles of learning:

  • Accommodating / doing: Having an experience and acting in the moment (experience and do) 
  • Diverging: Looking at an experience and reflect on in (experience and watch) 
  • Assimilating: Going from reflection to theory (think and watch) 
  • Converging: Taking the essence from a theory and actively experimenting (think and do) 



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