Learning Effectiveness

What Are Kolb Learning Styles? A Way to Make Learning More Effective

In the science of teaching adults, or “andragogy,” a teacher isn’t a sage on the stage but rather a facilitator by the side. Your success as a trainer is mostly measured by how well the trainees learn, retain information, and apply it in their job. The thing is, every individual learns at his or her own pace with his or her style because of multiple intelligences (nature), temperament (nature), and the environment (nurture).

In this article, we’ll discuss Kolb Learning Styles Theory, which focuses on the “nurturing” side of learning, and how to implement it in a training session for enhanced experience.

Despite a recent study that says adapting teaching to target specific learning style isn’t necessarily effective, it’s still useful for trainers to assess trainees’ learning styles. Encourage trainees to take this assessment before the training session so you can use the result for making suggestions related to their learning styles.

In 1984, David A. Kolb of Case Western Reserve University published a disruptive, groundbreaking book titled Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development (Englewood Cliffs, Prentice Hall, 1984), in which he discussed a principle that a person would learn more efficiently through discovery and experience. This Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) model pivots on the holistic model of learning and the multilinear model of adult development.

Kolb explained that people have different preferences in learning styles, which is likely influenced by their development stages (birth to adolescence), specializing (schooling and adulthood, including career choices), and integration (midcareer to later life). Furthermore, his theory links to both the underlying Jungian basis of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality assessments and Honey and Mumford’s four-stage cycle.

Kolb Inventory of Learning Styles includes these four styles: diverging (CE/RO), assimilating (AC/RO), converging (AC/AE), and accommodating (CE/AE). He further explained that these styles form a continuum of either feeling (Concrete Experience) or thinking (Abstract Conceptualization) and doing (Active Experimentation) or watching (Reflective Observation). A diverger is someone who excels at using various viewpoints and is imaginative. An assimilator enjoys thinking about abstract ideas and theoretical concepts. A converger likes ideas and theories but is also proficient at applying them in real life. An accommodator prefers hands-on learning and can make things happen with his or her intuition and by trial and error instead of logic.

As a trainer, it’s advised to consider how you’d approach activities that result in emotional responses regardless of the trainers’ learning styles. The positive learning experience is always preferred, as it floods the brain with dopamine, which is the chemical released when a person feels rewarded.

Dopamine is like the “save button” in learning. The more positive the learning experience, the more meaningful it would be felt and the more information retained.

Therefore, make sure to include activities that allow trainees to positively experience, observe, and develop ideas and act upon them. For this, how you deliver the materials that include most—if not all—learning styles would also matter.