Kolb developed a theory about how we change what we do in the light of experience – “Kolb’s action – reflection cycle”. He suggests that learning comes through a process of examining an experience, drawing out what worked well, what didn’t work so well and, based on these insights, plan for the future. He says that learning is experiential – based on experience.
David Kolb (with Roger Fry) created his famous model out of four elements:
- experience: concrete experience
- reflection: observation and reflection
- generalising: formation of abstract concepts
- applying: testing in new situations
Kolb and Fry (1975) argue that the learning cycle can begin at any one of the four points – and that it should really be approached as a continuous spiral.
First step: a learning process often begins with a person carrying out a particular action and then seeing the effect of the action I ate very hot food and burnt my mouth
Second step: is to understand these effects in the particular instance so that if the same action was taken in the same circumstances it would be possible to anticipate what would follow from the action. I understand that if I eat very hot food I will burn my mouth
Third step: is to make generalisations I realise that food needs to be not so hot in order to eat it. I realise that heat can hurt as well as be a comfort
Fourth step: is application through action Test temperature of food to make sure it is not too hot. Leave food to get cool before eating
The process could be seen as a spiral and the learner is now able to anticipate the possible effects of the action.