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Kolb's Learning Styles and Experiential Learning Cycle

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The learning cycle; 
The four stages of the learning cycling include: Concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation.

Kolb's Learning Styles and Experiential Learning Cycle

David Kolb published his learning styles model in 1984 from which he developed his learning style inventory.
Kolb's experiential learning theory works on two levels: a four-stage cycle of learning and four separate learning styles.  Much of Kolb’s theory is concerned with the learner’s internal cognitive processes.
Kolb states that learning involves the acquisition of abstract concepts that can be applied flexibly in a range of situations.  In Kolb’s theory, the impetus for the development of new concepts is provided by new experiences.
“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” (Kolb, 1984, p. 38).

The Experiential Learning Cycle
Kolb's experiential learning style theory is typically represented by a four-stage learning cycle in which the learner 'touches all the bases':
1. Concrete Experience - a new experience or situation is encountered, or a reinterpretation of existing experience.
2. Reflective Observation of the New Experience - of particular importance are any inconsistencies between experience and understanding.
3. Abstract Conceptualization reflection gives rise to a new idea, or a modification of an existing abstract concept (the person has learned from their experience).
4. Active Experimentation - the learner applies their idea(s) to the world around them to see what happens.
Effective learning is seen when a person progresses through a cycle of four stages: of (1) having a concrete experience followed by (2) observation of and reflection on that experience which leads to (3) the formation of abstract concepts (analysis) and generalizations (conclusions) which are then (4) used to test a hypothesis in future situations, resulting in new experiences.
Thus, Kolb (1984) views learning as an integrated process with each stage being mutually supportive of and feeding into the next. However, effective learning only occurs when a learner can execute all four stages of the model. Therefore, no one stage of the cycle is effective as a learning procedure on its own.

Learning Styles
Kolb's learning theory (1984) sets out four distinct learning styles, which are based on a four-stage learning cycle (see above). Kolb explains that different people naturally prefer a certain single different learning style.
Various factors influence a person's preferred style.  For example, social environment, educational experiences, or the basic cognitive structure of the individual.

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 an axis, each with 'conflicting' modes at either end.
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).

Kolb believed that we cannot perform both variables on a single axis at the same time (e.g., think and feel). Our learning style is a product of these two choice decisions.
It's often easier to see the construction of Kolb's learning styles in terms of a two-by-two matrix. Each learning style represents a combination of two preferred styles.
The matrix also highlights Kolb's terminology for the four learning styles; diverging, assimilating, and converging, accommodating:

Active Experimentation (Doing)
Reflective Observation (Watching)

Concrete Experience (Feeling)
Accommodating (CE/AE)
Diverging (CE/RO)

Abstract Conceptualization (Thinking)
Converging (AC/AE)
Assimilating (AC/RO)

Learning Styles Descriptions
Knowing a person's (and your own) learning style enables learning to be orientated according to the preferred method.
That said, everyone responds to and needs the stimulus of all types of learning styles to one extent or another - it's a matter of using emphasis that fits best with the given situation and a person's learning style preferences.
Here are brief descriptions of the four Kolb learning styles:

Diverging (feeling and watching - CE/RO)
These people are able to look at things from different perspectives. They are sensitive. They prefer to watch rather than do, tending to gather information and use imagination to solve problems. They are best at viewing concrete situations from several different viewpoints.
Kolb called this style 'diverging' because these people perform better in situations that require ideas-generation, for example, brainstorming. People with a diverging learning style have broad cultural interests and like to gather information. 
They are interested in people, tend to be imaginative and emotional, and tend to be strong in the arts. People with the diverging style prefer to work in groups, to listen with an open mind and to receive personal feedback.

Assimilating (watching and thinking - AC/RO)
The assimilating learning preference involves a concise, logical approach. Ideas and concepts are more important than people.
These people require good clear explanation rather than a practical opportunity. They excel at understanding wide-ranging information and organizing it in a clear, logical format.
People with an assimilating learning style are less focused on people and more interested in ideas and abstract concepts.  People with this style are more attracted to logically sound theories than approaches based on practical value.
This learning style is important for effectiveness in information and science careers. In formal learning situations, people with this style prefer readings, lectures, exploring analytical models, and having time to think things through.

Converging (doing and thinking - AC/AE)
People with a converging learning style can solve problems and will use their learning to find solutions to practical issues. They prefer technical tasks, and are less concerned with people and interpersonal aspects.
People with a converging learning style are best at finding practical uses for ideas and theories. They can solve problems and make decisions by finding solutions to questions and problems.
People with a converging learning style are more attracted to technical tasks and problems than social or interpersonal issues. A converging learning style enables specialist and technology abilities.
People with a converging style like to experiment with new ideas, to simulate, and to work with practical applications.

Accommodating (doing and feeling - CE/AE)
The Accommodating learning style is 'hands-on,' and relies on intuition rather than logic. These people use other people's analysis, and prefer to take a practical, experiential approach. They are attracted to new challenges and experiences, and to carrying out plans.
They commonly act on 'gut' instinct rather than logical analysis. People with an accommodating learning style will tend to rely on others for information than carry out their own analysis. This learning style is prevalent within the general population.

Educational Implications

Both Kolb's (1984) learning stages and cycle could be used by teachers to critically evaluate the learning provision typically available to students, and to develop more appropriate learning opportunities.
Educators should ensure that activities are designed and carried out in ways that offer each learner the chance to engage in the manner that suits them best.
Also, individuals can be helped to learn more effectively by the identification of their lesser preferred learning styles and the strengthening of these through the application of the experiential learning cycle.
Ideally, activities and material should be developed in ways that draw on abilities from each stage of the experiential learning cycle and take the students through the whole process in sequence.
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How to reference this article:
McLeod, S. A. (2017, October 24). Kolb - learning styles and experiential learning cycle. Simply Psychology.
APA Style References
Kolb, D. A. (1976). The Learning Style Inventory: Technical Manual. Boston, MA: McBer.
Kolb, D.A. (1981). Learning styles and disciplinary differences, in: A.W. Chickering (Ed.) The Modern American College (pp. 232–255). San Francisco, LA: Jossey-Bass.
Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Kolb, D. A., & Fry, R. (1975). Toward an applied theory of experiential learning. In C. Cooper (Ed.), Studies of group process (pp. 33–57). New York: Wiley.
Kolb, D. A., Rubin, I. M., & McIntyre, J. M. (1984). Organizational psychology: readings on human behavior in organizations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Meta-Cognitive tools; 
Meta- connected with change of position or state
Cognitive- connected with metal processes of understanding
Discuss some of the meta-cognitive tools that are appropriate in the teaching of mathematics.
In what ways can you ensure that students with different learning styles can be successful in your class?

Preparation and Planning for mathematics teaching
A mathematics teacher must make simple that which is complex and clouded. A teacher must be an inspiration to his/her students as well as be able to plan, organize and present any type of lesson to a class. Planning is about balance, pace, sequence, depth, breadth, skills and processes. In planning one needs to know the content which is obtained from mathematics syllabus. One will also need to state the objectives and choose the desirable teaching strategy.
1) The Mathematics Syllabus
To teach effectively one needs to have clear understanding of;
The KCSE mathematics syllabus
The mathematics teacher
The learner
a) the KCSE mathematics syllabus
A syllabus is a programe or outline of content material in a particular subject area to be studied by the student over a prescribed duration of time. This programme is devised by the authority responsible for such policy matters. In Kenya this reponsibilty  lies with the ministry of education (KIDC).  
The KCSE mathematics syllabus;
i) does not completely specify the depth of coverage. For example it would only indicate ‘solution of quadratic equastionby factorization of an equation such as ax2+bx+c=0’ but it does not indicate whether the constants a,b or c should be be rational, irrational etc numbers.
ii)does not indicate the pace of teaching in that if the topic is e.g Logarithm no time frame is given either the number of lessons or weeks it should take to teach that topic neither does the syllabus the number of topics to be covered for each term. Though the mathematics text books today do organize the work to be covered each term, the teacher should also make refrences to the syllabus and not rely entirely upon the text book.
iii)does not indicate the technique to be used- this is the matter for the teacher to decide. For example, when the teacher is handling the topic on ‘indices’it upon the teacher to decide the best method of delivery to achieve the intended objectives.
iv)does not specify the preliquisite knowledge-therefore the teacher should be in a position to find out what background knowledge the students posses which is essential to what is going to be taught.
What background knowledgeshould form two students who are to be introduced to logarithms possess prior to instruction?
Soln: 1) Expression of numbers in standard form
          2) Addition and subtraction of numbers (integers)
          3) rules of indices
Lack of such knowledge will make students
not follow the lesson
or mistakenly take the class for a dull group  
v)does not recommend text books which should be used in teaching-so it is up to the teacher to identify a book or two which she considers adequate (most schools have specific text books which they have identified). 
Instructional Objectives
Aims are long term statements achievable at the end of the course program. 

Instructional objectives on the other hand are statements of immediate concern to the teacher and they are achievable after classroom instruction.
Advantages of stating Instructional objectives 
If we accept the view that the purpose of education is to change the behavior of the learners then;-
the advantage of stating the instructional objective is that it should indicate quite clearly the terminal behaviour of the learner i.e the behaviour the learner should diplay which previously he did not exihibit.
Stating the objectives gives guide to the teacher on how far in terms of depth he should prepare what he will be teaching e.g the objective ‘the learner should be able to solve quadratic equations by using the method of completing the square’- indicates the scope of teaching. During this particular lesson the teacher will not be concerned with solution of quadratic equations by graphical method. The objective defines the limit within which his teaching should take place (he should not wonder outside the confine).
Stating the objective guides the teacher in the process of testing and evaluating student’s performance.
Stating objectives guides the teacher in identification of resources and planning for learners activities.
Categories of objectives
Cognitive Domain
Objectives which belong to the cognitive domain are concerned with understanding of knowledge –intellectual performance. Because most of our classroom activities are concerned with the acquisition of knowledge and indeed our examination as well, more attention tends to be given to the cognitive domain. Topics such as Algebra, vectors etc tend to fall purely on the cognitive domain.
Affective Domain
These objectives are concerned with attitudes and feelings unlike cognitive objectives where intellectual performance is the prime interest. An objective like ‘To appreciate the aesthetic and utilitarian values of mathematics’ is least concerned with intellectual performance of the learners. Whether or not a student is capable of calculating standard deviation is of least importance here. Of primary concern is the development of attitudes and values. Fundamentally, acquisition of knowledge is important in our educational system but it is not the only purpose of education.
Psychomotor Domain
Im mathematics we are also concerned with the acquisition of skills. For example, we ask ‘are our students able to construct some three dimesion objects?’ the concern here is the act of doing than the acquisition of knowledge. It is important to note that knowledge cannot be applied unless we understand it in the first place. Therefore we cannot categorise objectives as either cognitive or psychomotor. It is the extent to which the terminal behaviour is either dominantly ‘action oriented’ or ‘cognitive oriented’ which will compel us to classify a given statement as either falling within cognitive or psychomotor domain.
The following are topics in the KCSE syllabus which mainly fall under psychomotor domain. These include model making, construction of circles or triangles etc, graphs and drawing of plans just to mention a few.    

    Preparing Objectives for Teaching
We shall be mainly concerned with objectives at cognitive domain since they constitute almost 100% of classroom learning. Well stated objectives are important prior to teaching. There are three main characteristics which determine how well stated an objective is. These include;-
Specifity of an Instructional Objective
An instructional objective must contain the behaviour outcome expected from the learner. To do this verbs which we call ‘behavioural verbs’ are normally used when drawing up an objective. They are called behavioural verbs because they describe precisely what the learner should be capable of doing by the end of instruction.
Consider the following objectives ;
Simplify expressions involving surds
Derive sine formular
Calculate the length of a line between between two points
Solve problems involving vectors in two dimensions
The verbs simplify, derive, calculate and solve give a fair indication of what we expect our students to do.
Other equally appropriate verbs which can be used when writing objectives are;-
Explain, Name, Identify, factorise, Construct etc
On the other hand some verbs tend to have rather wide meaning and when used in stating           objectives the interpretation of these statements by individuals can be varied.
Consider the following statements:
Students should know the quadratic formular.
Students should understand the binomial theorem. 
Students should discuss isometric transformation
Now these statements are vaque compared with the previous ones because
What precisely do we want our students to do to show that they know quadratic equations? Or
When students understand binomial theorem what exactly are we demanding from them?
In discussing isometric transformation, what learning experience do we want our learners to exihibit?
The verbs know, understand, discuss are liable to broader interpretation. For example ‘to solve’ requires the student to do but we do not know what a learner who ‘understands’ will behave. Therefore, verbs such as know, understand, learn, appreciate etc are highly loaded verbs open to varying interpretation hence they should be avoided when objectives are being constructed.

Conditions under which learning occurs
The condition under whichlearning occurs is an important requisite element which should form part of an objective. We cannot let students learn under limitless conditions. Condition element is an essential component of any process in which judgement has to be made. Therefore 
For how long should we teach our students to be able to exhibit the desired behaviour? Consider the statement, “After 40 minutes the learners should be able to solve simultaneous equations”. The condition under which learning occurs is the duration of 40 minutes.
In most cases it is usual to begin by using the phrase “By the end of the lessonthe learner should be able to solve simultaneous equations”. The phrase “By the end of the lesson” defines the condition under which learning should occur.
In a soccer match, a winner is normally decided by the end of 90 minutes of play.
Time frame is essential in stating an objective.
      E.g “By the end of the lesson the learner should be able to solve quadratic equation by  
The level of perforemance
State how many questions the learner should be able to do also i.e not only factorise but factorise e.g 3 questions in 20 minutes.
Objectives are therefore stated:
In terms of the learners behaviour
Such that they are measurable
Such that they are attained within a given time
Such that the level of performance is specified
Such that the conditions prevailing are specified
Such that they are concise and clear
             SMART is the word
What are some of the limitations when objectives are precisely defined?  

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