Cognitive learning models: Kolb

Kolb[1] developed an experiential model which views successful learning as a cycle of four principal activities: Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualisation, Active Experimentation.

Diagram shows how concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation feed into each other as a continuous repeating cycle during a learning experience.
Kolb’s (1984) learning cycle


Here is an example of how you might run a Kolb-type workshop in the classroom:

First stage – Concrete Experience (CE)

Provide hands-on tasks which are open-ended: this provides room for later interpretation. Try to avoid “closed” tasks where learners are led to an answer.

IL example: Examine two contrasting sources of information for use in an assignment. Make notes about their suitability, looking for positive and negative aspects.

Second stage – Reflection (RO)

Ask students to observe and quantify what they experienced. Discussion groups and teacher facilitation can be useful, or students can log reflections in a journal.

IL example: Discuss in pairs/groups; teacher may guide some of the discussion.

Third stage – Abstract Conceptualisation (AC)

Students are given space to conceptualise and design new approaches.

IL Example: Students design a rubric for testing the validity of sources using the observations in stage two.

Fourth stage – Active Experimentation (AE)

Students use the rubric actively to evaluate a source. They may then reflect through discussion or in a journal on any difficulties and amend the rubric.


The next section covers Bloom’s taxonomy.


References for this page

[1] Kolb, D. A. 1984. Experiential learning. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.