David A. Kolb

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David Allen Kolb
BornDecember 12, 1939
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern Philosophy
Main interests
experiential learning
Notable ideas
Experiential Learning Model (ELM)

David Allen Kolb (born December 12, 1939, in Moline, Illinois) is an American educational theorist whose interests and publications focus on experiential learning, the individual and social change, career development, and executive and professional education. He is the founder and chairman of Experience Based Learning Systems, Inc. (EBLS),[1] and an Emeritus Professor of Organizational Behavior in the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.

Kolb earned his BA from Knox College in 1961 and his MA and Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1964 and 1967 respectively, in social psychology.

Experiential learning[edit]

In the early 1970s, Kolb and Ron Fry (now both at the Weatherhead School of Management) developed the Experiential Learning Model (ELM),[2] composed of four elements:

  • concrete experience,
  • observation of and reflection on that experience,
  • formation of abstract concepts based upon the reflection,
  • testing the new concepts,
  • (repeat).

These four elements are the essence of a spiral of learning that can begin with any one of the four elements, but typically begins with a concrete experience.

While this model is used widely in fields such as management education, it has been criticised for its inflexibility and over-simplification.[3]

Learning Style Inventory[edit]

Kolb is renowned in educational circles for his Learning Style Inventory (LSI). His model is built upon the idea that learning preferences can be described using two continuums:

  • Active experimentation ↔ Reflective observation
  • Abstract conceptualization ↔ Concrete experience.

The result is four types of learners: converger (Active experimentation - Abstract conceptualization), accommodator (Active experimentation - Concrete experience), assimilator (Reflective observation - Abstract conceptualization), and diverger (Reflective observation - Concrete experience). The LSI is designed to determine an individual's learning preference.[4]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Experience Based Learning Systems, LLC. (EBLS)
  2. ^ Kolb. D. A. and Fry, R. (1975) Toward an applied theory of experiential learning. in C. Cooper (ed.), Theories of Group Process, London: John Wiley.
  3. ^ Ryder, Mike; Downs, Carolyn (November 2022). "Rethinking reflective practice: John Boyd's OODA loop as an alternative to Kolb". The International Journal of Management Education. 20 (3): 100703. doi:10.1016/j.ijme.2022.100703. S2CID 252152374. Retrieved 2 November 2022.
  4. ^ Experience Based Learning Systems, Inc. (EBLS)

External links[edit]