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Experiential Learning – on the Web


Many of us engaged in professional learning have a broad understanding of
the work of David Kolb. His highly influential book entitled Experiential
Learning: Experience as the source of learning and development was first
published in 1984 since when his ideas have had a dramatic impact on the
design and development of lifelong learning models. Of course, Kolb's work
can be traced back to that famous dictum of Confucius around 450 BC:

"Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and
I will understand."

This article aims to help you explore the development of experiential
learning from its original proposal into some of its current refinements
and applications today, using the World Wide Web (the Internet) as a vast
reference library. Many of the web address (called hyperlinks) provided in
the text look clumsy - but if you have a web browser installed, just click
on the hyperlink and your browser should open the specific page.

A useful place to start this online exploration is David Kolb's own
website. Here you need to be careful. There is another and different
David Kolb, a professor of philosophy at Bates College, who is a prolific
author. The man we seek is the professor of organisational behaviour at
Weatherhead School of Management. David A Kolb describes himself as a
"contemporary advocate of Experiential Learning". His own professional
webpage is at you can
find information about his background, current work and most well know
publications - including references to his most well-known subject -
experiential learning and learning styles.

The concept of experiential learning explores the cyclical pattern of all
learning from Experience through Reflection and Conceptualising to Action
and on to further Experience. One of the sites which explores the model
and its practical application can be found at This is a very
well-known model which now forms the heart of many training and learning
events. It also describes the process for recording continuous
professional development, through taking time to capture, record and
implement learning in our daily work. There are many adaptations and uses
of the model. A fascinating one is provided on the Natural Learning
website where analogy between this model of learning and organic growth in
the plant and gardening worlds is well made:

David Kolb has extended his original work to explore the different ways in
which we all learn. He defined four styles, based loosely around the four
stages of his cycle: Activists, Reflectors, Theorists and Pragmatists.
Perhaps the best exposition of these learning styles, together with a range
of fascinating illustrations is to be found at the University of New South
Wales, and I would strongly recommend this page: The
work on learning styles has been used and developed by many groups and
institutions. A Polytechnic in Hong Kong adapted the work to provide a
Learning to Learn guide for its students:
Meanwhile, staff members at Mason College have done a very creditable job
of creating a directory of all the main learning style instruments
including a summary of their main benefits and features:

In Britain, the most accessible resource is the best-selling Manual of
Learning Styles created by Peter Honey and Alan Mumford which includes a
self-assessment instrument and advice on how to diversify your learning.
The Manual is available online at If you want
to track down the original publications by David Kolb, or to find other
books on experiential education, have a look through

Kolb's work has influenced the work of many in the learning, development
and education fields. The National Society for Experiential Education is a
membership association and networking resource promoting experience-based
approaches to teaching and learning Their site has
an extensive library of further resources. The Association for
Experiential Education aims to "contribute to making a more just and
compassionate world by transforming education" The
South African-based International Consortium for Experiential Education
organises its networking activities within four 'villages', two of which
are concerned with community action and social change, and with personal
growth, self awareness and group effectiveness

A further development of these ideas has led to the notion of groups and
companies transforming themselves into Learning Organisations. An
impressive and highly active network of people are busy exploring all
aspects of this field through the email discussion groups to be found at TrainingZone has itself, in collaboration with
the European Consortium for the Learning Organisation, recently initiated
an open conference about learning organisation matters at

We can explore and develop our own learning in an experiential way. The
Internet offers a virtually limitless resource for extending our own
knowledge as this article seeks to demonstrate. To explore some of these
ideas further, look up any of the links from this article, and register
for further updates with TrainingZone.


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