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david a. kolb on experiential learning
David A. Kolb's model of experiential learning can be found in many discussions of the theory and practice of adult education, informal education and lifelong learning. We set out the model, and examine its possibilities and problems. contents: • introduction • david a. kolb • david kolb on experiential learning • david kolb on learning styles • issues • developments - jarvis on learning • a guide to reading • links • how to cite this piece As Stephen Brookfield (1983: 16) has commented, writers in the field of experiential learning have tended to use the term in two contrasting senses. On the one hand the term is used to describe the sort of learning undertaken by students who are given a chance to acquire and apply knowledge, skills and feelings in an immediate and relevant setting. Experiential learning thus involves a, 'direct encounter with the phenomena being studied rather than merely thinking about the encounter, or only considering the possibility of doing something about it.' (Borzak 1981: 9 quoted in Brookfield 1983). This sort of learning is sponsored by an institution and might be used on training programmes for professions such as social work and teaching or in field study programmes such as those for social administration or geography courses. The second type of experiential learning is 'education that occurs as a direct participation in the events of life' (Houle 1980: 221). Here learning is not sponsored by some formal educational institution but by people themselves. It is learning that is achieved through reflection upon everyday experience and is the way that most of us do our learning. Much of the literature on experiential learning, as Peter Jarvis comments (1995: 75), 'is actually about learning from primary experience, that is learning through sense experiences'. He continues, 'unfortunately it has tended to exclude the idea of secondary experience entirely'. Jarvis also draws attention to the different uses of the term, citing Weil and McGill's (1989: 3) categorization of experiential learning into four 'villages': Village One is concerned particularly with assessing and accrediting learning from life and work experience.... Village Two focuses on experiential learning as a basis for bringing change in the structures... of post-school education.... Village Three emphasizes experiential learning as a basis for group consciousness raising.... Village Four is concerned about personal growth and self-awareness. These 'villages' of approaches retain a focus on primary experience (and do not really problematize the notion of experience itself). Jarvis (1995: 77-80) makes the case for a concern for secondary or indirect experience (occurring through linguistic communication). While there have been various additions to the literature, such as the above, it is the work of David A. Kolb (1976; 1981; 1984) and his associate Roger Fry (Kolb and Fry 1975) that still provides the central reference point for discussion. Following on from Kolb's work there has been a growing literature around experiential learning and this is indicative of greater attention to this area by practitioners - particularly in the area of higher education. David Kolb's interest lay in exploring the processes associated with making sense of concrete experiences - and the different styles of learning that may be involved. In this he makes explicit use of the work of Piaget, Dewey and Lewin. David A. Kolb

David A. Kolb is Professor of Organizational Behavior in the Weatheread School of Management. He joined the School in 1976. Born in 1939, Kolb received his Batchelor of Arts from Knox College in 1961, his MA from Harvard in 1964 and his PhD from Harvard in 1967. Besides his work on experiential learning, David A. Kolb is also known for his contribution to thinking around organizational behaviour (1995a; 1995b). He has an interest in the nature of individual and...
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