What is Experiential Learning?

David A. Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory is a powerful foundational approach to all forms of learning, development, and change.

Experiential Learning describes the ideal process of learning, invites you to understand yourself as a learner and empowers you to take charge of your own learning and development.

The way you learn is the way you approach life, in general. It is also the way you solve problems, make decisions and meet life’s challenges. Learning occurs in any setting and continues throughout your life. The Experiential Learning process supports performance improvement, learning and development.

More about EL Learning Styles

The Experiential Learning Cycle

The Experiential Learning Cycle identifies nine steps that are partial capabilities of the whole learning process–and parts of you as a whole person. The steps are: Initiating, Experiencing, Imagining, Reflecting, Analyzing, Thinking, Deciding, Acting and Balancing.

By understanding your approach–where you enter this Cycle and what steps you prefer-you will have a map of your current strengths and capabilities and a clear description of those you may want to develop in order to expand your range. The steps in the nine-step process of Full Cycle Learning:

Initiating: Begin the full cycle by initiating new courses of action. Focus on new opportunities.

Experiencing: Be present and deeply involved in direct, subjective experience. Focus on concrete experience such as emotions and being in relationships.

Imagining: Reflect on the experience and consider a range of possible options and solutions. Focus on including and helping.

Reflecting: Connect experiences and ideas through sustained reflection. Take time to consider many perspectives. Focus on observing.

Analyzing: Organize ideas into concise models and systems through reflection to create a plan. Focus on data.

Thinking: Use disciplined logic or mathematics to generalize and account for biases. Focus on rational thought.

Deciding: Commit to a single course of action to solve a problem solution or achieve practical results. Focus on one goal.

Acting: Take assertive directed action to accomplish the goal. Focus on results.

Balancing: Recognize the dynamic energy system of the cycle to preference different steps when the situation demands. Focus on adaptability.