Kolb (Can anyone remember his first name?) and his magic cycle, is usually pulled in when ‘experiential’ learning is being considered (rarely of course). In fact, there was a long line of theory well before this, with John Locke in his Talk to Teachers and Dewey’s Experience and Education. Other influences include Lewin and Piaget.
David A.Kolb (withRoger Fry) came up with the now famous four stage learning cycle.
Looks pretty good – yeah. Well the idea that such a clean cycle exists in reality or is even desirable was put to the test by Jarvis (1987, 1995) and shown to be wanting. Things are usually more complex that these simplistic instructional models suggest. The cycle doesn’t really happen and learning is causally more complex and messy than Kolb suggested.
Kolb saw us entering this cycle at any point and improving by looping round and round, putting your ideas to the test of real application, then, with relevant feedback, improving. Of course, experience, in the form of observed learning, shows that stages can be skipped or performed in parallel. The theory also ignores the important role of efficient memorisation.
We won’t mention his Learning Style Inventory, as that really was a crock of ….
If you’re interested in the books and Jarvis’s critique, here’s the reading list – or perhaps you’d like to rely on pure experience.
Kolb, D. A. (1984) Experiential Learning, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.: Prentice Hall.
Kolb, D. A. (1976) The Learning Style Inventory: Technical Manual, Boston, Ma.: McBer.
Kolb, D. A. (with J. Osland and I. Rubin) (1995a) Organizational Behavior: An Experiential Approach to Human Behavior in Organizations 6e, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Kolb. D. A. and Fry, R. (1975) 'Toward an applied theory of experiential learning;, in C. Cooper (ed.) Theories of Group Process, London: John Wiley.
Jarvis, P. (1987) Adult Learning in the Social Context, London: Croom Helm. 220 pages.
Jarvis P. (1995) Adult and Continuing Education. Theory and practice 2e, London: Routledge.
By the way – his first name was David.