Skip to content

WIL Centre Highlight

Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle

Tags: Vol. 1, Issue 3, March 2021

Theoretically grounded WIL ensures deliberate engagement, which promotes meaningful learning experiences. At Humber, Faculty Advisors and Seminar Instructors are connected to WIL courses to provide ongoing supervision and support while students engage in WIL.

There are several pedagogies related to experiential education which have been developed with David A. Kolb, a major contributor and educator to this area. Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory suggests that “learning occurs when an individual recognizes a personal experience and transforms that experience through their affect, perceptions, cognitions and/or behaviours” (HEQCO, 2016).

There are six core tenets of Experiential Learning Theory:

  1. Learning is a process
  2. Learning is grounded in experience
  3. Learning involves the mastery of all four learning modes (experience, reflect, theorize, and apply)
  4. Learning is a holistic process of adaptation
  5. Learning occurs when an individual interacts with their environment
  6. Knowledge is created through learning

The Experiential Learning Cycle (Figure 2) comprises 4 modes of learning

  1. Concrete experience emphasizes an individual’s engagement with an experience.
  2. Reflective observation involves descriptive observations of what or how an event was experienced.
  3. Abstract conceptualization occurs when a student applies logic, theory, and concepts to an experience.
  4. Active experimentation emphasizes experimentation to alter an environment or experience. When each of these modes are present, an optimal level of learning occurs.

These 4 modes do not necessarily occur in a sequential manner but are instead integrated within a learning experience. Concrete experience emphasizes an individual’s engagement with an experience. Reflective observation involves descriptive observations of what or how an event was experienced. Abstract Conceptualization occurs when a student applies logic, theory, and concepts to an experience. Active Experimentation emphasizes experimentation to alter an environment or experience. When each of these modes are present, an optimal level of learning occurs.

Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO). (2016). A practical guide for work-integrated learning. www.heqco.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/HEQCO_WIL_Guide_ENG_ACC.pdf

Figure 2

Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle

Share this article: