3 Kolb’s Learning Model

In this chapter you will be exploring who you are as a learner. That is, you’ll be learning about your own learning style and performing metacognition. This is important for Prior Learning because the better you can understand how you learned the areas of expertise, the better you can explain that expertise to your portfolio reviewers. It’s worth the effort to think about your own thinking so that your portfolio expresses your learning in a clear way.

Experiential Learning

Some say that all learning is experiential, which means learning by doing or learning from direct experience. Humans have been doing this type of learning from the beginning of time. Think about how you learned to walk, ride a bicycle, or play a sport. You start with small steps, then gradually improve, and eventually you don’t even have to think about what you do. Sometimes experiential learning is contrasted with academic (or didactic) learning, learning from a book or a lecture. Going to the zoo and learning about animals through observation and interaction is experiential learning; reading about animals in a book is academic learning. There is a place for each kind of learning, but in this course we are focusing on the experiential type.

PLA transforms your experiential learning by allowing you to articulate what you have learned from your experiences.

Kolb’s Learning Model

David Kolb has been a pioneer in the field of experiential learning, visualizing his theory in his Learning Model (1984). His model depicts a cycle. The following is a visualization of his model:

Kolb’s Learning Styles” 2017 by Cynthia D’Costa
under license”Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

This illustration shows the four learning styles. According to Kolb, a person usually has a preference for at least one learning style but can also develop facility in others with exposure.  The four styles, simply put are:

  • Diverger: Enjoys seeing things from many viewpoints, is imaginative and enjoys working with people
  • Assimilator: Likes the world of ideas and abstract concepts; does not necessarily need to relate them to real-world situations
  •  Converger: Enjoys working to solve abstract problems using logic and analysis, but enjoys applying solutions to real-world situations.
  •  Accommodator: Likes solving problems in a hands-on fashion and enjoys taking action

This illustration also displays Kolb’s learning cycle. The cycle symbolizes the journey of a person when learning occurs. According to this theory, to learn a person needs to go beyond the concrete experience through a process of reflection, analysis (conceptualization) and testing (experimentation)—basically a scientific process. Kolb described learning as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” (Kolb, 1984, p.38). Kolb states that learning is a process that requires the learner to move around the wheel.  A person can start anywhere on the wheel, depending which is the individual’s preferred learning style.


This chapter contains material taken from “PLA 100: Introduction to Prior Learning Assessment, Lesson 3” by Center for the Assessment of Learning and Terry Hoffmann licensed under CC BY 4.0.


Kolb D. (1984). Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.



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