Kolb’s Model On The 4 Learning Styles

Kolb made a description of different learning styles according to various types of students.

Children in school class.

The ability that people have to assimilate the information that surrounds them through observation, study and experience is known as learning. But this learning ability is not the same in all people.

The learning styles model created by David Kolb distinguishes four types of learning according to the way in which people prefer to deal with the information in their environment. We describe this model below and explain its possible limitations.

Characteristics of the Kolb model

The American psychologist David A. Kolb designed in 1984 a model on learning styles in which it was theorized that there are three major agents that modulate the learning styles of each person. These three agents are genetics, life experiences, and the demands of our environment.

Over time, this model has become one of the most widely recognized assumptions about learning and one of the most widely used today.

According to the learning style model developed by Kolb, when a person wants to learn something, they must process and work on the information they collect. For this information processing to be carried out optimally, four different phases must be completed. They are as follows.

1. Concrete experience (EC)

The immediate and specific experiences that give rise to observation must take place.

2. Reflective observation (OR)

The person reflects on what he is observing and develops a series of general hypotheses about what the information received may mean.

3. Abstract conceptualization (AC)

Then, as a result of these hypotheses, abstract concepts and generalizations are formed.

4. Active experimentation (EA)

Finally, the person experiments or practices these concepts in other contexts or situations.

When the person completes all these stages of the process, the sequence is restarted to continue acquiring more knowledge and information.

The types of students

The reality is that people tend to specialize in one or two of the four phases that we have seen. Since Kolb warned of this fact, he elaborated four typologies of students according to the way in which they prefer to work with the information.

These students are classified into:

  • Active or divergent students.
  • Reflective or assimilating students.
  • Theoretical or convergent students.
  • Pragmatic or accommodating students.

These categories, which will be explained one by one in the next point, refer to the type of learning in which a person specializes. Depending on the category that it is in, it will be easier or more difficult for you to assimilate the information, this will depend on the way in which it is presented and on how you work in the classroom.

Taking into account these four phases and the concept of specialization, it would be necessary for educators to present the information for each of the subjects in such a way as to ensure that they are covering all the phases of Kolb’s model. This would facilitate the learning of each and every one of the students regardless of the phase in which they are and, in addition, the phases in which they are less specialized will be reinforced.

The current educational system does not usually take this too much into account, giving more value and prioritizing the conceptualization and theorizing phase. This occurs especially at the secondary and higher education levels, where the more theoretical students are favored to the detriment of the more pragmatic ones; Except for some specific subjects.

The learning style according to Kolb

As described above, Kolb develops a classification of learning styles according to the preferences that students have when it comes to handling and assimilating the information presented to them.

1. Active or divergent students

The distinguishing characteristics of active or divergent learners include full and non-judgmental involvement and commitment. These people tend to make the most of the moment and tend to indulge in events.

They are excited about any kind of novel activity that they indulge in completely. However, they tend to get bored easily, so the moment they lose interest in one they will start on a different one.

Another point that defines these people is that they tend to act before thinking through the consequences.

They learn best when

  • When the activity is challenging.
  • They propose short and concise activities.
  • When they are excited about the activity.

They learn worse when

  • When they are long-term activities.
  • They have a passive role in the activity.
  • They must assimilate, analyze and interpret data.
  • They have to work alone.

2. Reflective or assimilating students

These students are characterized by observing events and treating information from many different points of view. His specialty is collecting information and examining it thoroughly before making his hypotheses.

Their way of working forces them to be cautious with their conclusions, analyzing all the consequences of their actions before taking them. They always observe, attend and pay attention to all the details before making any contribution.

They learn best when

  • When they can carefully observe the information around them.
  • When they offer them time to analyze and reflect before acting.
  • When they can go unnoticed.

Learn worse when

  • They are forced to take center stage or be the center of attention.
  • When they are not given enough time to complete a task.
  • When they are forced to act without first thinking.

3. Theoretical or convergent students

This third type of students tends to accommodate and integrate information, turning it into complex theories and with a solid fundamental logic. Your thinking is organized sequentially, going through a series of steps before generating any kind of conclusion.

They tend to examine and summarize all the information, and value logic and reason above all else, which is why they feel disoriented when faced with activities that do not have obvious logic and subjective judgments.

They learn best when

  • They present objective models, theories and systems.
  • When the activity is challenging.
  • When they can investigate and track information.

They learn worse when

  • Vague, confusing, or uncertain activities are presented to them.
  • Very subjective or emotional activities.
  • When they have to work without a theoretical frame of reference.

4. Pragmatic or accommodating students

Pragmatic learners feel comfortable putting the new knowledge, theories, and techniques they learn into practice. They dislike having to be debating these theories or continually reflecting on the information presented to them.

In short, they are practical, realistic people, with a great capacity for problem solving and who are always looking for the best way to do things.

They learn best when

They are offered activities in which they can relate theories to practical situations. When they can observe how an activity is carried out. When they can put into practice what they have to learn.

They learn worse when

  • When abstract activities are presented that are not related to reality.
  • When the activity does not have an established purpose.
  • When they cannot relate the information to practical situations.

Criticisms of Kolb’s model

This model has been widely criticized by those who argue that there is very little evidence to support the existence of these styles. A large-scale review of this model concluded that there was insufficient research or empirical evidence to support the existence of these styles.

Likewise, his detractors insist that Kolb did not take into account how culture and context shape the learning process.

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