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Experiential learning and Kolb Model, An education strategy

To talk about experiential learning and Kolb Model?, let us give two different scenarios and then you can decide which one is better for you. Imagine we have a group of students and we want to teach them some concepts about engineering & construction. We have two scenarios for that:

Traditional Way: a regular class where we give them a lecture about Engineering and the basics of constructing elements. Then, there will be some Q&As. Moreover, there is an ssignment where students solve problems and submit a sheet of answers.

Experiential learning: we give the students a number of small sticks, and ask them to build a small bridge. They start to put the pieces together and try. Usually, they will face some failures and try again. During that, they will observe and succeed to fix their mistakes. Then, we merge the theories with their observations. And then, discuss why that part of the bridge failed while that other part worked well. Finally, students try again and build a new bridge based on the knowledge they built.

Now, you may judge which scenario looks better.

Experiential learning - Building


What is “Experiential learning Style”?

Learning by experiment is defined as doing real-life experiences instead of spoon-feeding & overwhelming the students with textbooks & resources. Actually, it should be introduced in the early years of children! Those experiments can be: cultural exchanges, museum tours, workshops, community service, scientific institutions, mountain biking, backpacking, canoeing, internships, summer jobs and nature visits.

This learning depends mainly on observations & real-life interactions, such as: going to the zoo & learning about all the animals them by observing their behaviors. In another manner, you can go to observe animals in their real living area (aka. Observe fish while diving, observe the African elephants in Africa). And this is known for “Kolb experiential learning model”.


What is wrong with the traditional way?

Experts found several problems in the traditional learning style. Studies show that students level of attention decreases during the regular lectures. They may even lose the attention after few minutes due to lack of engagement.

A known problem in traditional system is that it is a copy & paste system. Because students do not have an experience, they all copy & paste the same perspective of their instructor. That reduces the room for creativity & innovation.

Additionally, traditional lectures provides theories and concepts. However, the link between these theories and the real life is missing.

Therefore, the experiential learning appears
to fix many of the previous problems. It encourages higher levels of student engagement. Accordingly, each student gains his own lessons and experience. That results in a level of personalized learning for each student. Moreover, they close the gap between the concepts they learn and the real life.


Kolb Model

In 1984, a professor named David Kolb published a book about learning styles. He started the “Kolb experiential learning model”. According to his model, to enhance the experiment even further, the facilitators should ask the students a set of 5 questions within the experiment itself to lead the students to a critical analysis, as follows:

  1. Did you notice_______?
  2. Why did that happen?
  3. Does that happen in real-life?
  4. Why does that happen?
  5. How can you use that?

Generally, the experiential learning model is a cycle that consists of four stages. The cycle may start at any of these stages according to the nature of subject.

Experiential learning - Kolb Cycle

The four stages are as follows:

  • Concrete experience: Doing the new-experience yourself
  • Reflective observation: making observations based on your experience
  • Abstract conceptualization: learn from your experiences and understanding of concepts
  • Active experimentation is trying out whatever you’ve already learnt in theory

And apparently we have dealt with experiential learning in a way or another; through school trips, summer internships, or summer jobs. At the end, it depends on you whether you prefer the abstract classroom or the intuitiveness & analytical aspects included in the experiential learning.

Advantages & Critique of Experiential learning


Supporters say Experiential learning have several advantages. It allows students to:

  • Have a glimpse of the real-world away from theories
  • Take the opportunity to reflect & analyze
  • Have that sense that mistakes are crucial to learn
  • Prepare students to apply the theories they are learning

Not everyone agrees with this Kolb. Some say that It targets a certain cohort because it requires the student should possess analytical skills & problem solving skills in order to get use of the Experiential learning. Moreover, student should also possess the will to be engaged in the adventure itself.


How to join it

Many schools in different countries follow the Experiential learning. The following names are just examples.

  • Think global schools, USA: the student travels for 4 years and studies in 8 different countries. They spend each term in a new country.
  • Dawson school, USA: devotes 2 weeks yearly to experimental learning.
  • Elena Projec, Romania, Hungary, and Georgia; to learn the biological diversity through Experiential learning.


For your further reference, here are some sites that may help you applying them as a caregiver with your children, relatives, or as a teacher in your school:

Also you can read our article about Education Techniques.