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The Kolb cycle

Watch Dr Martin Bicknell explain more about the Kolb learning cycle.
OK. Let’s explore this idea of experiential learning in a little more depth. And there’s various models around here. And for example, this is some work done by an academic called Kolb. It’s about 30 years old, this idea. And he talks about learning as occurring in a cycle. And again, like I’ve been stressing, experience starts with cycle. So we have this point where we have concrete experiences. We then have to reflect on these experiences. And we go through a stage known as reflective observation. This is where we look at experiences from different angles. And this is where the energy from other people and this range in diversity of experiences can be brought through.
So we go through this period of reflective observation. In the course, we’re go to introduce a number of models, such as this from Kolb. And this, if you will, gives you an abstract framework within which you can reflect upon these experiences you’ve had. This is the stage known in the model as abstract conceptualisation. So it’s a thinking process which is new and relates to the concrete experiences which started the cycle. The final stage is to go through active experimentation, to go through the doing. It may be that you’re taking ideas from this course back into the office or the workplace. Or it may be active in the sense that you’re going through thought experiments, perhaps with colleagues on the course.
You’re discussing them. So you’re actually working out how you can use your abstract thoughts in a different way. And then, as a result of this active experimentation, you have a new concrete experience. You’re starting another cycle again from a different experience, which is more advanced on the previous one. So Kolb– it’s definitely a cycle. And it goes through these different stages. But it’s all about reflecting on experience. You could, if you wanted, to go through the cycle by yourself. But I would strongly recommend that this is not a good approach. As I said, social learning is an important aspect of this course.
And the ability to go through this cycle with colleagues on the course would definitely be a more effective way of learning.
The Kolb cycle of learning includes factors of ‘active experimentation’, ‘concrete experience’, ‘reflective observation’ and ‘abstract conceptualisation’. This video explains the Kolb model in more detail.
The Kolb cycle Click to expand
Figure 1: The Kolb cycle
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