1. Kolb’s model of experiential learning
  2. Benefits of EL
    1. References

“The process of learning from experience is ubiquitous, present in human activity everywhere all the time.” (Kolb & Kolb, 2017, p. 11)

Kolb’s model of experiential learning

The theoretical model of experiential learning is grounded in the humanistic and constructivist perspective, proposing that we are naturally capable to learn, and that experience plays a critical role in knowledge construction and acquisition. In other words, learning occurs when someone creates knowledge though experiential transformations (Kolb, 1984).

According to Kolb’s model of experiential learning, effective learning occurs in four stages:

  1. Concrete experience: The learner encounters a new experience or engages in a reinterpretation process of an existing experience.The Experiential Learning Cycle (Kolb & Kolb 2017)
  2. Reflective observation: The learner reviews and reflects on the new experience and identifies any inconsistencies between experience and understanding.
  3. Abstract conceptualization: Through the reflective process, the learner creates a new idea/concept or modifies an existing abstract concept – analyzing the concepts and forming conclusions and generalizations.
  4. Active experimentation: The learner plans and tries out what was learned and is able to apply the new knowledge to other situations – conclusions and generalizations are used to tests hypothesis and thus the learner engages in new experiences.

It is possible for the learner to enter at any of these four stages and follow them through their sequence to acquire new knowledge. For effective learning to occur, the learner should complete all four stages of the model and no one stage can stand alone as a learning procedure.

The Experiential Learning Cycle (Kolb & Kolb, 2017)

Benefits of EL

  • Makes learning relatable to students: Students build on what they already know and are provided with opportunities to make connections between new concepts and existing ones.
  • Increases the effectiveness of learning: Students engage in critical thinking, acquire problem solving skills and engage in decision making.
  • Links theory to practice: Students have the chance to engage in the experience and practice what they have learned, see the application of the theoretical concepts in practice, process that application and make generalizations.
  • Increases students’ engagement, by encouraging collaboration and scaffolding between learners.
  • Assists in memory retention, by building strong relationships between feelings and thinking processes. Students have the capacity to learn successfully when the information is associated with values and feelings.
  • Leads to development of skills for lifelong learning, by assisting in the acquisition of essential skills and encouraging students to reflect, conceptualize, and plan for next steps.


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Eyler, J. (2002). Reflection: Linking service and learning – Linking students and communities. In Journal of Social Issues, 58(3), 517-534.

Kayes, C. (2002). Experiential learning and its critics: Preserving the Role of experience in management learning and education. In Academy of Management Learning & Education, 1(2), 137-149.

Kolb, A., & Kolb, D. (2010). Experiential learning theory: A dynamic, holistic approach to management learning, education and development. Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University. Retrieved from http://www.learningfromexperience.com/media/2010/08/ELT-Hbk-MLED-LFE-website-2-10-08.pdf

Kolb, D.. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

McMurty, A. (2004). Complexity theory 101 for educators: A fictional account of a graduate seminar. In McGill Journal of Education, 43(3), 265-282.

Moon, J. (2006). A handbook of reflective and experiential learning: Theory and practice. New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

Taylor, A., and Raykov, M. (2014). The long-term outcomes of community service-learning. University of Alberta.