An Elementary Exploration of Kolb’s Learning Styles and Experiential Learning Model

I learned about a new instructional design model earlier this week.

Kolb’s Learning Styles and Experiential Learning Model

David Kolb created the Kolb’s Learning Style and Experiential Learning Model (KLS) in the 1980s. Kolb’s theory is that instructional design should incorporate a cyclical four-stage experiential learning program that includes tasks and approaches for four individual learning styles.

Kolb’s Learning Styles Inventory

Kolb created his associated “Learning Styles Inventory” (LSI) to support his theory. Specifically, Kolb separates learners into four styles:

  • Diverging learners. Kolb explains that observant, sensitive diverging learners focus best while watching concrete reflective tasks in group settings. Kolb theorizes instructional designs should be created to meet the needs of diverging learners by designing innovative and imaginative concrete situations that enable diverging learners to make observations of a variety of perspectives during group interactions such as collaborative brainstorming;
  • Assimilating learners. Kolb explains insightful attentive assimilating learners focus best during thoughtful observations of group tasks. Kolb theorizes that instructional designer should meet the needs of assimilating learners by designing activities that enable assimilating learners to think inductively and reason during collaborative projects or experiments then integrate observations into models representing a whole;
  • Converging learners. Kolb explains that action-oriented converging learners focus best from thoughtfully applying concepts during technical group tasks. Kolb theorizes instructional designers should meet the needs of converging learners by designing technical decision-making activities that require thoughtful and practical application of ideas for problem-solving,
  • Accommodating learners. Kolb explains that intuitive, thoughtful, accommodating learners focus best after considering what needs to be done before engaging in group tasks. Kolb theorizes instructional designers should meet the needs of accommodating learners by designing activities that require accommodating learners to use trial, error, logic, and reason to solve problems during collaborative discovery (Kolb, 2014).

Kolb’s Learning Circle

Grounded by “left-brain-right-brain” theory, Kolb opines that learning should not focus on achieving a particular outcome. Rather, Kolb advocates learning should be promoted as the completion of a process comprised of balanced interchangeable and continuous experimental reflective and conceptualization group tasks. Kolb also argues that the process should be continuous and should involve learners engaging in active and reflective conflict resolutions, collaborative problem-solving, and perception adaptations during group interactions (Sudria, Redhana, Kirna, & Aini, 2018).

It is important to note that Kolb does not consider his theorized LSI as personality types as some theorist do (Sample, 2004). Rather, Kolb argues that humans learn differently and the failure of instructional designers to consider this will inhibit learning for one type of learner or another.

Jennie’s Perspective

Humph. Okay. Maybe this explains why our ADDIE group was able to cover so much ground when we next met.

Under new leadership, our small group dynamics changed after we reconvened and separated ourselves into practitioners (high school teachers) and theorists (ADDIE instructional designers). We then gave the practitioners the loudest voice at the table (After all, they were the REAL experts) and ensured the practitioners had the last word regarding when an idea should be accepted or thrown out (Hulbert, 1994).

Our instructor popped in once just as we were veering off course again and whipped us right back in line. Order was immediately restored. (Thanks, Professor.)

The new approach ensured all voices were engaged and heard by respecting that the members of our group had different learning styles – not personality types. (Thanks, Kolb.) 

By the time we wrapped up, our group was working cohesively and progressively toward an outline for our presentation (Benne & Sheats, 1948).  (Yeah!)

It is my understanding that we have an additional week to prepare the presentation. So, I think we will be ready to go by showtime, confident, and prepared to roll. I feel good about that too. (Yippee!)

Life gets real good when theory meets practice.


Benne, K. D., & Sheats, P. (1948). Functional Roles of Group Members. Journal of Social Issues, 4(2), 41–49.

Hulbert, J. E. (1994). Developing Collaborative Insights and Skills. Bulletin of the Association for Business Communication, 57(2), 53–56.

Kolb, D. A. (2014). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. FT press.

Sample, J. (2004). The Myers- Briggs Type Indicator and OD: Implication for Practice from Research. Organization Development Journal, 22(1), 67–75.

Sudria, I. B. N., Redhana, I. W., Kirna, I. M., & Aini, D. (2018). Effect of Kolb’s Learning Styles under Inductive Guided-Inquiry Learning on Learning Outcomes. International Journal of Instruction, 11(1), 89–102.

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