Kolb’s Learning Styles

There are various learning styles among students. Learning styles are influenced by the social environment, previous educational experiences and learners’ cognitive makeup. Based on Kolb’s theory, there are two variables that determine the learning style preference of the individual:

  • Processing Continuum (the ways we approach a task)
  • Perception Continuum (our emotional engagement – how we think and feel about the task)

There are 4 learning styles: Diverging, Assimilating, Converging and Accommodating:

Doing (Active Experimentation – AE) Watching (Reflective Observation – RO)
Feeling (Concrete Experience – CE) Accommodating (CE/AE) Diverging (CE/RO)
Thinking (Abstract Conceptualization – AC) Converging (AC/AE) Assimilating (AC/RO)
  1. Diverging (feeling and watching – CE/RO)

Looking at issues from various perspectives, characterized as sensitive, with a preference to watch rather than do something. Those with this learning style  have a better ability to generate ideas and engage in brainstorming, enjoy gathering information, are often interested in people, imaginative and emotional, arts-oriented, have excellent group-work skills, and are open to concrete feedback.

  1. Assimilating (watching and thinking – AC/RO)

Less focused on people, and more driven to ideas and abstract conceptualization. This learning style is more common in information and science careers, with preference on readings, following logical approaches, being concise, and with the ability to explore and manipulate analytical models.

  1. Converging (doing and thinking – AC/AE)

An ability to solve problems, with a preference for technical engagements that do not require social interaction. Individuals with this learning style are often  good at using technology, are interested in experimentation of new ideas and in practical application of theory.

  1. Accommodating (doing and feeling – CE/AE)

A hands-on learning style, relying on intuition and not much on logic. Those with this learning style often have a preference to practical, experiential approaches, with attraction to new experiences and challenging engagements while carrying out tasks. They often have a tendency to rely on others for information, and are not interested in carrying out their own analysis, acting on a ‘gut’ instinct.

Even though Kolb’s theory on Learning Cycle is widely accepted and has been used with the purpose of improving the learning achievement of the learners, his theory on the learning styles should be approached with caution, as is in the case of any other theory on learning styles that exist in the pedagogical literature. And even though there is a widespread preference on identifying and placing learners in specific ‘boxes’ of attributes and strengths in order to use predetermined strategies and methods, we know that learners and learning are complex unpredictable systems (McMurty, 2004). It is important therefore, to keep in mind that learners differ in their learning styles exhibited in different contexts and different times of their lives. Thus, the same learner may be in need of different approaches to learning in different situations. Additionally, discussion on the implication of Learning styles inventory for teaching is not drawn from research findings but rather from theory. Furthermore, in regards to the pedagogical impact, there is not enough evidence supporting the implied necessary matching of the learning style with corresponding teaching practices in order for this to have a positive impact on the academic performance of the learners (Coffield, et.al., 2004).