Applying Kolb’s Experimental Learning Cycle

Learning theorist, David Kolb, founded the Experimental Learning Cycle (1984).


It is a four-step cycle model where the learner experiences different learning styles: doing, observing, thinking and planning.


Applying Kolb’s Experimental Learning Cycle means that the learner goes through each step of the process in order to learn effectively.



“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” (Kolb, 1984).


1. Concrete experience (doing)

The first step in the learning theory is when the learner actively experiences the activity. This could be anything, from learning a concept to carrying out field work.



2. Reflective observation of the new experience (observing)


The next stage is for the learner to reflect and think about the experience.

This involves considering any irregularities of the experience and why they happened.



3. Abstract conceptualisation (thinking)


In the third step, the learner thinks about a new concept or idea, or modifies an existing one. They apply this to what they have already observed to conceptualise the experience.



4. Active experimentation (planning)


The last stage is when the learner is confident with the concept being taught and can apply their newfound knowledge to future concepts. They are able to test the model, so they can improve the learning experience.



Kolb’s Experimental Learning Cycle (1974) consist of four stages:

(1) completing a concrete experience by doing an activity,  (2) reflecting and observing the experience, (3) forming abstract concepts by thinking about the experience, and (4) using the experience for planning future tasks.


The theorist thought of learning as a progress containing many components.

These components each work together to progress onto the next. Kolb suggests that in order to learn effectively, the learner must carry out all steps of the learning cycle.


If you’re interested in applying Kolb’s Experimental Cycle of Learning, you may enjoy other learning theories.