Learning styles specifically deal with characteristic styles of learning. Kolb (1984) proposes a theory of experiential learning that involves four principal stages: concrete experiences, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation.
The CE/AC and AE/RO dimensions are polar opposites as far as learning styles are concerned and Kolb postulates four types of learners (divergers, assimilators, convergers, and accommodators) depending upon their position on these two dimensions. For example, an accommodater prefers concrete experiences and active experimentation (AE, CE).
A common approach to viewing learning styles is linked to a learning cycle of experience, observation and reflection, formation and then testing of concepts. Although commonly referred to as the Kolb Learning Cycle this cycle was proposed by Kurt Lewin who got the idea from control engineering. David Kolb (1984) popularized Lewin’s proposal (hence the common title).
The four stages of the Experiential Learning Cycle are:-
- Concrete experience
- Observation and Reflection
- Abstract Conceptualization
- Testing concepts in new situations
The cycle is a continuous process with the current ‘concrete experience’ being the basis for observations and reflections, which allow the development of a ‘theory’. The ‘theory’ is then tested in new situations to lead to more concrete experience.
Kolb developed from the Lewin model the idea that students have a dominant phase of the cycle during which they prefer to learn and therefore will have preferred modes of learning. In order to identify the preferred study and learning styles, Kolb developed a Learning Style Inventory that identified student’s preference for the four modes corresponding to the stages in the learning cycle.