Experiential Learning Theory

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David Kolb\'s theory of Experiential Learning

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  • This presentation will delve into the theory of experiential learning in higher education and adult learning. Dr. David Kolb developed the theory that adults learning by experimenting with new information using experiences—i.e. learning English while cooking their favorite meal for their classmates, including a demonstration and recipe cards in English. Experiential learning is grounded on the observation that adults appear to comprehend and retain information more readily if the information is presented in an activity with which they are already comfortable. The relationship between learning and development is a dance between new knowledge and a learner’s ability to comprehend and use the new information (develop new skills, concepts, ideas). Piaget suggests that development from birth onward “moves from a concrete, phenomenal view of the world to an abstract, constructionist view (Kolb, D., 1984). Other learning theories focus on learning and recalling information using more abstract methods (Kolb, D., 1984). Theories and research have been conducted since the early part of the 20th century, when it was first realized that adults needed education beyond that learned as a child (Knowles, 1973). The term research, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (2012b) describes “studious inquiry or examination; especially: investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws.” Research, encompasses “careful or diligent” activities done to prove or disprove a theory. The term theory, however, has many definitions, any or all of which can apply to research. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (2012a) states that a theory is an “abstract thought…scientifically acceptable principle... hypothesis...or speculation.” In order to complete this assignment, it is necessary to choose among the theories taught in this course. The experiential theory of adult learning put forth by Dr. David Kolb in 1984 states that “learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” (Kolb, 1984).
  • The term andragogy was first used in ancient times, and then abandoned until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when adult learning theorists really began to study the learning needs of adults.(Baumgartner, Caffarella & Merriam, 2007, p. 84)
  • (Baumgartner, Caffarella & Merriam, 2007, p. 84).
  • 1 Baumgartner, L., Caffarella, R., & Merriam, S. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide (3rd ed). Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.http://transformativelearningtheory.com/
  • Tough and Knowles thought adult learning was a step by step process, or linear activity that resulted in self-directed learning. Many subsequent learning frameworks had similar traditional, andragogical themes (p. 110). Tough found through research that adults created “learning projects”, or “a highly deliberate effort to gain and retain certain definite knowledge and skill, or to change in some other way” (p. 110).Other models of self-directed learning are more interactive, making them less linear in nature. When multiple factors combine—factors such as opportunities, personality characteristics, cognitive processes, and the context in which the learning will occur, they form “episodes” of self-directed learning (p. 110).1 Baumgartner, L., Caffarella, R., & Merriam, S. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide (3rded).Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.
  • 2Kolb, D. & Kolb, A. (2005). Learning styles and learning spaces: Enhancing experiential learning in higher education. Academy of Management Learning & Education, (4)2, 193–212. Retrieved by EBSCOhost.
  • 2Smith, M. K. (2001). David A. Kolb on experiential learning:The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrievedfrom http://www.infed.org/b-explrn.htm
  • The Learning Style Inventory (LSI) model created by Kolb could be used to determine a particular adult’s learning preferences: it used a “forced choice” method by asking a question such as “I learn best by…” and then allowing “the person to rank the four choices listed (AE-allowed a chance to practice, CE-relationships, RO-observation, & AC-rational theories) from 4 (most like you) to 1 (least like you)” (Boyatzis, R., Kolb, D., & Mainemelis, C., 2002). The resulting score would indicate in which categories a particular adult learned most effectively: someone who is predominantly AE prefers hands-on experience, and a chance to do it multiple times until understanding is obtained; a predominantly CE adult learner is someone who likes to “go with their gut feelings”, and uses emotions to make decisions; persons who arepredominantly RO learners prefer to observe a situation to glean meaning and understanding (Boyatzis, et al., 2002). Boyatzis, Kolb, and Mainemeliscautioned educators and adult learners from thinking of these learning styles as “static” or non-moving (2002). These learning styles are meant to change as an adult learner’s perspective changes through education and life experiences. Which type of learner are you now, as a doctoral student? Have you always been that type of learner? If not, what has changed?Boyatzis, R., Kolb, D., & Mainemelis, C. (2002). Learning styles and adaptive flexibility: Testing experiential learning theory. Management Learning, 33(1) p. 5-33. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model [image]. Retrieved from http://www.ilough-lab.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=62&Itemid=69
  • 2Kolb, D. & Kolb, A. (2005). Learning styles and learning spaces: Enhancing experiential learning in higher education. Academy of Management Learning & Education, (4)2, 193–212. Retrieved by EBSCOhost.
  • 2Kolb, D. & Kolb, A. (2005). Learning styles and learning spaces: Enhancing experiential learning in higher education. Academy of Management Learning & Education, (4)2, 193–212. Retrieved by EBSCOhost.
  • Several other theorists have also put forth arguments stating that Kolb’s theory does not adequately address all of the necessary aspects of adult learning (Baumgartner, Caffarella, & Merriam, 2007). One argument that experiential learning theory is not complete is Fenwick’s (2003, as cited in Baumgartner, et al., 2007, p. 183) issue with whether or not learners consisted of “one unified self or…a collection of multiple selves.” Fenwick argued that the “self is split between conscious and unconscious desires” and it was the learners’ struggle between these two polarities that affected learning and reflection (2003, p.77, as cited in Baumgartner, et al., 2007, p. 183). Freedman, R. & Stumpf, S. (1980). Learning style theory: Less than meets the eye. The Academy of Management Review (5)3. p. 445-447. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
  • John Dewey was an early theorist who explored the idea of experiential learning; in his 1938 work, he hypothesized that “all genuine education comes about through experience” (Dewey, 1938, as cited in Baumgartner, Caffarella, & Merriam, 2007, p. 162). Interestingly, Dewey also claimed that not all experiences were “genuinely or equally” educational (Baumgartner, et al., 2007, p. 162). 
  • Mankell, H. (2011). The art of listening. New York Times, (SR)4. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/11/opinion/sunday/in-africa-the-art-of-listening.html?_r=2&scp=2&sq=the%20art%20of%20listening&st=cse
  • Experiential Learning Theory

    1. 1. Rebecca TaylorWalden University EDUC 8101-01
    2. 2. 1. Everyone sit with your hands in your lap.2. Starting with all 10 fingers, each time someone says an activity (i.e. skydiving, snorkeling, knitting, etc.).3. Each time someone says something you have done, curl one finger into your palm.4. The last person with at least one finger left in play.
    3. 3. ◦ Participants will be able to explain experiential learning to others◦ Participants will be able to discuss one time in which they recognize experiential learning taking place
    4. 4.  Confucius (551—479 BCE) is best known as a keeper of the old traditions, rather than an innovator or radical thinker of new knowledge. Socrates (469—399 BCE) was best known for encouraging his students to question everything and to make a decision based on their own understanding. Aristotle (384-322 BCE) became the tutor for Phillip of Macedonia’s son, Alexander, who would later become “Alexander the Great”.
    5. 5.  Andragogy is a term Malcolm Knowles used to describe how adults learned differently than children. Knowles claimed there were six assumptions to be made about adult learners.
    6. 6. These include:a) adults learn when situations arise in whichadditional learning will be helpful;b) adults learn when the education iscentered on necessary life skills;c) experience forms the basis of the bestlearning;
    7. 7.  d) adults want to be integral players in their learning, rather than repositories for information; e) differences among adult learning needs increase as adults age; and f) that adults’ desire to learn is internally motivated.
    8. 8. Jack Mezirow states that learning is a “processof using a prior interpretation to construe anew or revised interpretation of the meaning ofones experience in order to guide futureaction”1.This type of learning occurs when one’s beliefsor “meaning scheme” changes due to newinformation and ideas1. These changes mayoccur quickly, or take place over a longerperiod of time1.
    9. 9. Allen Tough, an adult learning theorist, builton the work of Malcolm Knowles’ andragogy.In his work, he outlined three linear goals ofself-directed learning.1. to enhance one’s ability to direct his/her own learning1.2. to “foster transformational learning as central” 1.3. to promote independent learning.
    10. 10. Educational theorists influencing theExperiential Learning Theory: John Dewey Kurt Lewin Jean Piaget Carl Jung Paulo Freire David Kolb2
    11. 11. David A. Kolb was born in 1939, andbecame Professor of OrganizationalBehavior in the Weatheread School ofManagement in 1976. “He has aninterest in the nature of individual andsocial change, experiential learning,career development and executive andprofessional education” 2
    12. 12. Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory:
    13. 13. Similar to Knowles’ six steps to andragogy,that were discussed earlier, Kolb also had stepsto his experiential theory.1. Learning should be viewed as an ongoing process rather than a process that has an endpoint or “outcome” 22. “All learning is relearning,” 2 it encourages students to restudy their previously held beliefs and ideas so they can be either incorporated with new knowledge or be cast aside as outdated and old-fashioned.
    14. 14. 3. When one is learning, they must “move back and forth between opposing modes of reflection and action and feeling and thinking”4. Learning involves one’s entire being; it involves “thinking, feeling, perceiving, and behaving”5. Learning results from the give-and-take interactions between the environment and the student6. “Learning is the process of creating knowledge” 2
    15. 15. Learning theorists, Richard Freedman andStephen Stumpf have argued since the 1970sthat Kolb’s theory of the Learning StyleInventory was too rigid, speculative and lackedenough supporting evidence from otherreliable tools.
    16. 16.  What types of experiences do you consider not genuinely or equally educational? Kolb’s theory of experiential learning does not account for the learner’s “biography”, and according to some critics, leaves the experience and reflection to exist in a “vacuum”; why is it vital to includes the context of a person’s experience in order to learn from it? With whom do you agree; Kolb or his critics? Why?
    17. 17. “Many people make the mistake ofconfusing information with knowledge.They are not the same thing.Knowledge involves the interpretationof information. Knowledge involveslistening.” -Hanning Mankell The Art of Listening
    18. 18. Anonymous (2005). Aristotle (384-322 BCE). Internet Encylopediaof Philosophy. Retrieved from http://www.iep.utm.edu/aristotl/Baumgartner, L., Caffarella, R., & Merriam, S. (2007). Learning inadulthood: A comprehensive guide (3rd ed). Jossey-Bass: SanFrancisco.Boyatzis, R., Kolb, D., & Mainemelis, C. (2002). Learning styles andadaptive flexibility: Testing experiential learning theory.Management Learning, 33(1) p. 5-33. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.Freedman, R. & Stumpf, S. (1980). Learning style theory: Less than meets the eye. The Academy of Management Review (5)3. p. 445- 447. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model [image]. Retrieved from http://www.ilough- lab.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=62&Ite mid=69
    19. 19. Nails, D. (2009). Socrates. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2010/entries/socrates/Mankell, H. (2011). The art of listening. New York Times, (SR)4. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/11/opinion/sunday/in-africa- the-art-of- listening.html?_r=2&scp=2&sq=the%20art%20of%20listening&st=c seRichey, J. (2005). Confucius (551—479 BCE). Internet Encylopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from http://www.iep.utm.edu/confuciu/Smith, M. K. (2001). David A. Kolb on experiential learning: The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/b-explrn.htm

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