“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping experience and transforming it”. Kolb (1984,41)
It is important to recognise how we individually learn before we embark upon the process of reflection. We all have a preference as to how we approach learning, some of us like to actually take part and learn from experience whilst others like to read and prepare well before we learn.
The following video clip verbally describes the process of experiential learning (3:53) as an artist sketches the process and we recommend students watch this to gain a basic understanding of the main concepts.
Experiential Learning | 3:53 mins
The cycle of experiential learning developed by Kolb (1984) forms the basis of a model for reflective practice. 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 hypothesis in future situations, resulting in new experiences.
The experience involves doing something. This may be something deliberate and intended or something unintentional. The intended experience may work out as planned or not. Reflecting involves returning to the experience, re-examining, and making sense of it. Learning involves generalising from the experience in order to improve future action. Planning is the link between past experience and future action. It involves using your learning to predict what needs to happen to achieve your goals.
Figure 1 Kolb's, Experiential Learning cycle (Kolb, 1984)
Kolb's learning theory (Kolb & Fry, 1974) sets out four distinct learning styles, which are based on a four-stage learning cycle (see Figure 1). Kolb explains that different people naturally prefer a certain single different learning style. Various factors influence a person's preferred style.