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Here are brief descriptions of the four Kolb learning styles: As with any behavioural model, this is a guide not a strict set of rules.
A note about Learning Styles in young people's education: Towards the end of the first decade of the 2000s a lobby seems to have grown among certain educationalists and educational researchers, which I summarise very briefly as follows: that in terms of substantial large-scale scientific research into young people's education, 'Learning Styles' theories, models, instruments, etc., remain largely unproven methodologies.
In addition to personal business interests (Kolb is founder and chairman of Experience Based Learning Systems), David Kolb is still (at the time of writing, 2005) Professor of Organizational Development at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, where he teaches and researches in the fields of learning and development, adult development, experiential learning, learning style, and notably 'learning focused institutional development in higher education'.
See also Gardner's Multiple Intelligences and VAK learnings styles models, which assist in understanding and using Kolb's learning styles concepts.
In turn, Kolb's learning styles model and experiential learning theory are today acknowledged by academics, teachers, managers and trainers as truly seminal works; fundamental concepts towards our understanding and explaining human learning behaviour, and towards helping others to learn.
In his publications - notably his 1984 book 'Experiential Learning: Experience As The Source Of Learning And Development' Kolb acknowledges the early work on experiential learning by others in the 1900's, including Rogers, Jung, and Piaget.
The model gave rise to related terms such as Kolb's experiential learning theory (ELT), and Kolb's learning styles inventory (LSI).The ability to use or 'switch between' different styles is not one that we should assume comes easily or naturally to many people.Simply, people who have a clear learning style preference, for whatever reason, will tend to learn more effectively if learning is orientated according to their preference.Kolb says that ideally (and by inference not always) this process represents a learning cycle or spiral where the learner 'touches all the bases', ie., a cycle of experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting.Immediate or concrete experiences lead to observations and reflections.The development stages that Kolb identified are: Whatever influences the choice of style, the learning style preference itself is actually the product of two pairs of variables, or two separate 'choices' that we make, which Kolb presented as lines of axis, each with 'conflicting' modes at either end: Concrete Experience - CE (feeling) -----V-----Abstract Conceptualization - AC (thinking) Active Experimentation - AE (doing)-----V----- Reflective Observation - RO (watching) A typical presentation of Kolb's two continuums is that the east-west axis is called the Processing Continuum (how we approach a task), and the north-south axis is called the Perception Continuum (our emotional response, or how we think or feel about it).These learning styles are the combination of two lines of axis (continuums) each formed between what Kolb calls 'dialectically related modes' of 'grasping experience' (doing or watching), and 'transforming experience' (feeling or thinking): The word 'dialectically' is not widely understood, and yet carries an essential meaning, namely 'conflicting' (its ancient Greek root means 'debate' - and I thank P Stern for helping clarify this precise meaning).The result of these two decisions produces (and helps to form throughout our lives) the preferred learning style, hence the two-by-two matrix below.We choose a way of 'grasping the experience', which defines our approach to it, and we choose a way to 'transform the experience' into something meaningful and usable, which defines our emotional response to the experience.(This interpretation was amended and revised March 2006) Kolb explains that different people naturally prefer a certain single different learning style.Various factors influence a person's preferred style: notably in his experiential learning theory model (ELT) Kolb defined three stages of a person's development, and suggests that our propensity to reconcile and successfully integrate the four different learning styles improves as we mature through our development stages.