Experiential Learning Theory: A Dynamic, Holistic Approach to Management Learning, Education and Development

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DOI: 10.4135/9780857021038.n3
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Abstract
Experiential learning theory (ELT) has been widely used in management learning research and practice for over thirty-five years. Building on the foundational works of Kurt Lewin, John Dewey and others, experiential learning theory offers a dynamic theory based on a learning cycle driven by the resolution of the dual dialectics of action/reflection and experience/abstraction. These two dimensions define a holistic learning space wherein learning transactions take place between individuals and the environment. The learning space is multi-level and can describe learning and development in commensurate ways at the level of the individual, the group, and the organization. This approach is illustrated by reviewing current research on individual learning styles and managerial problem solving/decision making, the process of team learning and organizational learning. We describe how ELT can serve as a useful framework to design and implement management education programs in higher education and management training and development.
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3
Experiential Learning Theory:
A Dynamic, Holistic Approach
to Management Learning,
Education and Development
Alice Y. Kolb and David A. Kolb
Abstract
Experiential learning theory (ELT) has
been widely used in management
learning research and practice for over
35 years. Building on the foundational
works of Kurt Lewin, John Dewey and
others, experiential learning theory
offers a dynamic theory based on a
learning cycle driven by the resolution
of the dual dialectics of action/reflection
and experience/abstraction. These two
dimensions define a holistic learning space
wherein learning transactions take place
between individuals and the environment.
The learning space is multi-level and can
describe learning and development in
commensurate ways at the level of the
individual, the group, and the organization.
This approach is illustrated by reviewing
current research on individual learning styles
and managerial problem solving/decision
making, the process of team learning
and organizational learning. We describe
how ELT can serve as a useful framework
to design and implement management
education programs in higher education and
management training and development.
INTRODUCTION
The organizational behavior and management
fields for many years have focused on perfor-
mance as the primary validation touchstone
for their theories and concepts. In the twenty-
first century, however, we have begun to
see a shift in focus away from measures of
organizational and managerial performance
that are often limited and subject to short-
term manipulation at the expense of long-term
sustainability. In the new perspective organi-
zations are seen as learning systems and the
management process is viewed as a process
of learning. Learning lies at the core of the
management process when learning is defined
holistically as the basic process of human
adaptation. This broad definition subsumes
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EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING THEORY 43
more specialized managerial processes such
as entrepreneurial learning (Corbett, 2005,
2007; Poltis, 2005); strategy formulation
(Ramnarayan and Reddy, 1989; Van Der
Heijden, 1996; Kolb et al., 1986); creativity
(Brennan and Dooley, 2005; Boyle et al.,
1991; Ogot and Okudan, 2006; Potgieter,
1999); problem solving and decision making
(Donoghue, 1994; Jervis, 1983; Kolb, 1984;
Selby et al., 2004); and leadership (Robinson,
2005; Kayes et al., 2005a).
For over 35 years research based on
experiential learning theory (ELT–Kolb 1984;
Kolb and Kolb, 2007a,b) has been an advocate
for and contributor to this shift in perspective.
Experiential learning theory draws on the
work of prominent twentieth century scholars
who gave experience a central role in their
theories of human learning and development
notably John Dewey, Kurt Lewin, Jean Piaget,
William James, Carl Jung, Paulo Freire, Carl
Rogers and others to develop a dynamic,
holistic model of the process of learning
from experience and a multi-linear model of
adult development. ELT is a dynamic view
of learning based on a learning cycle driven
by the resolution of the dual dialectics of
action/reflection and experience/abstraction.
It is a holistic theory that defines learning
as the major process of human adaptation
involving the whole person. As such, ELT is
applicable not only in the formal education
classroom but in all arenas of life. The process
of learning from experience is ubiquitous,
present in human activity everywhere all
the time. The holistic nature of the learning
process means that it operates at all levels
of human society, from the individual, to
the group, to organizations and to society as
a whole. Research based on ELT has been
conducted all around the world supporting the
cross-cultural applicability of the model.
Research on experiential learning in man-
agement has used ELT to describe the
management process as a process of learn-
ing by managers, teams and organizations
for problem solving and decision making,
entrepreneurial opportunity seeking and strat-
egy formulation. It has also had a major
influence on the design and conduct of
educational programs in management training
and development and formal management
education. After a review of the basic
concepts of experiential learning theory
the cycle of experiential learning, learning
style, learning space and the developmental
model of learning we describe how the
process of management can be viewed as
a learning process. Research on the use of
ELT to study managerial behavior, teams, and
organizations is reviewed. Next, applications
to training and development and formal
management education are described. The
final section includes a summary, evaluation
of the theory and future directions for research
and application of ELT.
EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING THEORY
ELT integrates the works of the foundational
experiential learning scholars around six
propositions which they all share:
(1) Learning is best conceived as a process, not
in terms of outcomes. To improve learning in
higher education, the primary focus should be
on engaging students in a process that best
enhances their learning a process that includes
feedback on the effectiveness of their learning
efforts: ‘… education must be conceived as a
continuing reconstruction of experience the
process and goal of education are one and the
same thing.’ (Dewey 1897: 79)
(2) All learning is re-learning. Learning is best
facilitated by a process that draws out the
students’ beliefs and ideas about a topic so that
they can be examined, tested and integrated
with new, more refined ideas.
(3) Learning requires the resolution of conflicts
between dialectically opposed modes of adap-
tation to the world. Conflict, differences, and
disagreement are what drive the learning
process. In the process of learning one is called
upon to move back and forth between opposing
modes of reflection and action and feeling and
thinking.
(4) Learning is a holistic process of adaptation.
It is not just the result of cognition but
involves the integrated functioning of the total
person thinking, feeling, perceiving and
behaving. It encompasses other specialized
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44 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF MANAGEMENT LEARNING, EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT
models of adaptation from the scientific method
to problems solving, decision making and
creativity.
(5) Learning results from synergetic transactions
between the person and the environment. Stable
and enduring patterns of human learning arise
from consistent patterns of transaction between
the individual and his or her environment. The
way we process the possibilities of each new
experience determines the range of choices and
decisions we see. The choices and decisions we
make to some extent determine the events we
live through, and these events influence our
future choices. Thus, people create themselves
through the choice of actual occasions they live
through.
(6) Learning is the process of creating knowl-
edge. ELT proposes a constructivist theory of
learning whereby social knowledge is created
and recreated in the personal knowledge of
the learner. This stands in contrast to the
‘transmission’ model on which much current
educational practice is based where pre-existing
fixed ideas are transmitted to the learner.
THE CYCLE OF EXPERIENTIAL
LEARNING
ELT defines learning as ‘the process
whereby knowledge is created through the
transformation of experience. Knowledge
results from the combination of grasping and
transforming experience’ (Kolb, 1984: 41).
The ELT model portrays two dialectically
related modes of grasping experience
Concrete Experience (CE) and Abstract Con-
ceptualization (AC) and two dialectically
related modes of transforming experience
Reflective Observation (RO) and Active
Experimentation (AE). Experiential learning
is a process of constructing knowledge that
involves a creative tension among the four
learning modes that is responsive to contex-
tual demands. This process is portrayed as an
idealized learning cycle or spiral where the
learner ‘touches all the bases’ experiencing,
reflecting, thinking, and acting in a recursive
process that is responsive to the learning
situation and what is being learned. Immediate
or concrete experiences are the basis for
observations and reflections. These reflections
are assimilated and distilled into abstract
concepts from which new implications for
action can be drawn. These implications can
be actively tested and serve as guides in
creating new experiences (see Figure 3.1).
Jung discovered the universal mandala
symbol in many cultures and religions
throughout time representing this holistic,
Reflective
Observation
Abstract
Conceptualization
Concrete
Experience
Active
Experimentation
Grasping
Transforming
Diverging
AssimilatingConverging
Accommodating
Figure 3.1 Experiential learning cycle
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EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING THEORY 45
dynamic cycle of learning. Mandala means
circle, an eternal process where endings
become beginnings again and again. ‘The
mandala form is that of a flower, cross,
or wheel with a distinct tendency toward
quadripartite structures,’ (Jung, 1931: 100). It
often represents dual polarities, the integration
of which fuels the endless circular process
of knowing. ‘Psychologically this circulation
would be a ‘turning in a circle around
oneself ’: whereby all sides of the personality
become involved. They cause the poles of
light and darkness to rotate …’ (p. 104).
In their theories of experiential learning
William James and Paulo Freire describe
their views about the integration of these
of the concrete/abstract and action/reflection
dialectics.
William James proposed radical empiri-
cism as a new philosophy reality and mind
which resolved the conflicts between nine-
teenth century rationalism and empiricism,
the philosophies of idealism and materialism.
For James, everything begins and ends in
the continuous flux and flow of experience.
His philosophy of radical empiricism was
based on two coequal and dialectically related
ways of knowing the world ‘knowledge
of acquaintance’ based on direct perception
and ‘knowledge about’ based on mediating
conception. In radical empiricism, direct
perception has primacy since all concepts
derive their validity from connection to sense
experience. Concepts, however, have priority
in controlling human action because they
often enable us to predict the future and
achieve our desires. James (1977: 243) draws
attention to the importance of this co-equal
relationship when he says:
We thus see clearly what is gained and what is
lost when percepts are translated into concepts.
Perception is solely of the here and now; conception
is of the like and unlike, of the future, and of
the past, and of the far away. But this map of
what surrounds the present, like all maps, is only
a surface; its features are but abstract signs and
symbols of things that in themself are concrete
bits of sensible experience. We have but to weigh
extent against content, thickness against spread,
and we see that for some purposes the one, for
other purposes the other, has the higher value.
Who can decide off-hand which is absolutely better
to live and to understand life? We must do both
alternately, and a man can no more limit himself to
either than a pair of scissors can cut with a single
one of its blades.
While the conceptualizing/experiencing
dialectic described by James is recognized
by the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, by
stressing the importance of naming one’s own
experience in dialogue with others, he and
other critical theorists give primary emphasis
to praxis, the transformative dialectic between
reflection and action reflection informed by
action and action informed by reflection. He
writes powerfully about the dynamics of this
dialectic:
As we attempt to analyze dialogue as a human
phenomenon. Within the word we find two
dimensions, reflection and action, in such radical
interaction that if one is sacrificed even in part
the other immediately suffers. When a word
is deprived of its dimension of action, reflection
automatically suffers as well; and the word is
changed into idle chatter, into verbalism, into an
alienated and alienating ‘blah’. On the other
hand, if action is emphasized exclusively, to the
detriment of reflection, the word is converted into
activism. The latter action for action’s sake negates
the true praxis and makes dialogue impossible.
(Freire, 1992: 75–8)
In The Art of Changing the Brain: Enrich-
ing Teaching by Exploring the Biology of
Learning, James Zull, a biologist and found-
ing director of CWRU’s University Center
for Innovation in Teaching and Education
(UCITE), sees a link between ELT and
neuroscience research, suggesting that this
process of experiential learning is related to
the process of brain functioning, ‘… concrete
experiences come through the sensory cortex,
reflective observation involves the integrative
cortex at the back, creating new abstract
concepts occurs in the frontal integrative
cortex, and active testing involves the motor
brain. In other words, the learning cycle
arises from the structure of the brain.’
(Zull, 2002: 18).
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46 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF MANAGEMENT LEARNING, EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT
LEARNING STYLE
The concept of learning style describes
individual differences in learning based on the
learners preference for employing different
phases of the learning cycle. Because of
our hereditary equipment, our particular life
experiences, and the demands of our present
environment, we develop a preferred way of
choosing among the four learning modes. We
resolve the conflict between being concrete or
abstract and between being active or reflective
in patterned, characteristic ways. ELT posits
that learning is the major determinant of
human development and how individuals
learn shapes the course of their personal devel-
opment. Previous research (Kolb, 1984) has
shown that learning styles are influenced by
personality type, educational specialization,
career choice, and current job role and tasks.
A recent study (Joy and Kolb, 2007) has
shown relationships between learning style
and culture of birth and residence. Analysis
of country ratings on individual cultural
dimensions suggests that individuals tend to
have reflective learning styles in countries
that are high in uncertainty avoidance and
active learning styles in countries that are
high in in-group collectivism. Individuals tend
to have abstract learning styles in countries
that are high in uncertainty avoidance, future
orientation, performance orientation and
institutional collectivism. Yamazaki (2004,
2005) has identified learning style cultural
influences as well.
Much of the research on ELT has focused
on the concept of learning style using the
Learning Style Inventory (KLSI) to assess
individual learning styles (Kolb, 1971, 1985,
1999). While individuals tested on the KLSI
show many different patterns of scores,
previous research with the instrument has
identified four learning styles that are asso-
ciated with different approaches to learning:
Diverging, Assimilating, Converging, and
Accommodating. The following summary of
the four basic learning styles is based on
both research and clinical observation of these
patterns of KLSI scores (Kolb, 1984, 1999).
An individual with diverging style has CE
and RO as dominant learning abilities. People
with this learning style are best at viewing
concrete situations from many different points
of view. It is labeled ‘Diverging’ because a
person with it performs better in situations
that call for generation of ideas, such as
a ‘brainstorming’ session. People with a
Diverging learning style have broad cultural
interests and like to gather information. They
are interested in people, tend to be imaginative
and emotional, have broad cultural interests,
and tend to specialize in the arts. In formal
learning situations, people with the Diverging
style prefer to work in groups, listening with
an open mind and receiving personalized
feedback.
An individual with an assimilating style has
AC and RO as dominant learning abilities.
People with this learning style are best at
understanding a wide range of information
and putting it into concise, logical form.
Individuals with an Assimilating style are less
focused on people and more interested in
ideas and abstract concepts. Generally, people
with this style find it more important that a
theory has logical soundness than practical
value. The Assimilating learning style is
important for effectiveness in information and
science careers. In formal learning situations,
people with this style prefer readings, lectures,
exploring analytical models, and having time
to think things through.
An individual with a converging style has
AC and AE as dominant learning abilities.
People with this learning style are best at
finding practical uses for ideas and theories.
They have the ability to solve problems and
make decisions based on finding solutions
to questions or problems. Individuals with
a Converging learning style prefer to deal
with technical tasks and problems rather
than with social issues and interpersonal
issues. These learning skills are important
for effectiveness in specialist and technology
careers. In formal learning situations, people
with this style prefer to experiment with new
ideas, simulations, laboratory assignments,
and practical applications.
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EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING THEORY 47
An individual with an accommodating style
has CE and AE as dominant learning abilities.
People with this learning style have the
ability to learn from primarily ‘hands-on’
experience. They enjoy carrying out plans and
involving themselves in new and challenging
experiences. Their tendency may be to act on
‘gut’ feelings rather than on logical analysis.
In solving problems, individuals with an
Accommodating learning style rely more
heavily on people for information than on
their own technical analysis. This learning
style is important for effectiveness in action-
oriented careers such as marketing or sales.
In formal learning situations, people with
the Accommodating learning style prefer to
work with others to get assignments done,
to set goals, to do field work, and to test
out different approaches to completing a
project.
Recent theoretical and empirical work
shows that the original four learning style
types can be refined to show nine distinct style
types (Eickmann et al., 2004; Kolb and Kolb,
2005a; Boyatzis and Mainemelis, 2000).
David Hunt and his associates (Abbey et al.,
1985; Hunt, 1987) identified four additional
learning styles which they identified as North-
erner, Easterner, Southerner, and Westerner.
In addition, a Balancing learning style has
been identified by Mainemelis et al. (2002)
that integrates AC and CE and AE and RO.
LEARNING SPACES
The concept of learning space elaborates
further the holistic, dynamic nature of learning
style and its formation through transactions
between the person and environment. The
idea of learning space builds on Kurt Lewin’s
field theory and his concept of life space.
For Lewin, person and environment are
interdependent variables, a concept Lewin
translated into a mathematical formula,
B=f(p,e) where behavior is a function of
person and environment and the life space
is the total psychological environment which
the person experiences subjectively. Lewin
introduced a number of concepts for analysis
of the life space and a person’s relationship
to it that are applicable to the study of
learning spaces, including position, region,
locomotion, equilibrium of forces, positive
and negative valence, barriers in the person
and the world, conflict, and goal.
Three other theoretical frameworks inform
the ELT concept of learning space. Urie
Bronfrenbrenners (1977, 1979) work on
the ecology of human development has
made significant sociological contributions to
Lewin’s life space concept. He defines the
ecology of learning/development spaces as
a topologically nested arrangement of struc-
tures each contained within the next. The
learners immediate setting, such as a course
or classroom, is called the microsystem, while
other concurrent settings in the person’s life,
such as other courses, the dorm or family, are
referred to as the mesosystem. The exosystem
encompasses the formal and informal social
structures that influence the person’s immedi-
ate environment, such as institutional policies
and procedures and campus culture. Finally,
the macrosystem refers to the overarching
institutional patterns and values of the wider
culture, such as cultural values favoring
abstract knowledge over practical knowledge,
that influence actors in the person’s immediate
microsystem and mesosystem. This theory
provides a framework for analysis of the
social system factors that influence learners’
experience of their learning spaces.
Another important contribution to the
learning space concept is situated learning
theory (Lave and Wenger, 1991). Like ELT,
situated learning theory draws on Vygotsky’s
(1978) activity theory of social cognition
for a conception of social knowledge that
conceives of learning as a transaction between
the person and the social environment.
Situations in situated learning theory like life
space and learning space are not necessarily
physical places but are constructs of the
person’s experience in the social environment.
These situations are embedded in communi-
ties of practice that have a history, norms,
tools, and traditions of practice. Knowledge
resides, not in the individual’s head, but in
communities of practice. Learning is thus
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48 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF MANAGEMENT LEARNING, EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT
a process of becoming a member of a
community of practice through legitimate
peripheral participation (e.g. apprenticeship).
Situated learning theory enriches the learning
space concept by reminding us that learning
spaces extend beyond the teacher and the
classroom. They include socialization into a
wider community of practice that involves
membership, identity formation, transitioning
from novice to expert through mentorship and
experience in the activities of the practice, as
well as the reproduction and development of
the community of practice itself as newcomers
replace old-timers.
Finally, in their theory of knowledge
creation, Nonaka and Konno (1998) introduce
the Japanese concept of ‘ba’, a ‘context that
harbors meaning’, which is a shared space
that is the foundation for knowledge creation.
‘Knowledge is embedded in ba, where it is
then acquired through one’s own experience
or reflections on the experiences of others’
(Nonaka and Konno, 1998: 40). Knowledge
embedded in ba is tacit and can only be made
explicit through sharing of feelings, thoughts
and experiences of persons in the space. For
this to happen, the ba space requires that indi-
viduals remove barriers between one another
in a climate that emphasizes ‘care, love, trust,
and commitment’. Learning spaces similarly
require norms of psychological safety, serious
purpose, and respect to promote learning.
In ELT the experiential learning space is
defined by the attracting and repelling forces
(positive and negative valences) of the two
poles of the dual dialectics of action/reflection
and experiencing/conceptualizing, creating a
two dimensional map of the regions of
the learning space. An individual’s learning
style positions them in one of these regions
depending on the equilibrium of forces
among action, reflection, experiencing and
conceptualizing. As with the concept of
life space, this position is determined by
a combination of individual disposition and
characteristics of the learning environment.
The LSI measures an individual’s preference
for a particular region of the learning space,
their home region so to speak. The regions
of the ELT learning space offer a typology
of the different types of learning based on
the extent to which they require action vs.
reflection, experiencing vs. thinking thereby
emphasizing some stages of the learning cycle
over others.
The ELT learning space concept empha-
sizes that learning is not one universal process
but a map of learning territories, a frame of
reference within which many different ways
of learning can flourish and interrelate. It is
a holistic framework that orients the many
different ways of learning to one another.
The process of experiential learning can be
viewed as a process of locomotion through
the learning regions that is influenced by a
person’s position in the learning space. One’s
position in the learning space defines their
experience and thus defines their ‘reality’.
DEVELOPMENT AND DEEP LEARNING
The ELT developmental model (Kolb, 1984)
defines three stages: (1) acquisition, from
birth to adolescence where basic abilities and
cognitive structures develop; (2) specializa-
tion, from formal schooling through the early
work and personal experiences of adulthood
where social, educational, and organizational
socialization forces shape the development of
a particular, specialized learning style; and
(3) integration in mid-career and later life
where non-dominant modes of learning are
expressed in work and personal life. Devel-
opment through these stages is characterized
by increasing complexity and relativism in
adapting to the world and by increased
integration of the dialectic conflicts between
AC and CE and AE and RO. Development
is conceived as multi-linear based on an
individual’s particular learning style and life
path development of CE increases affective
complexity, of RO increases perceptual com-
plexity, of AC increases symbolic complexity,
and of AE increases behavioral complexity
(see Figure 3.2).
A study by Clarke (1977) of the accounting
and marketing professions illustrates the ELT
developmental model. The study compared
the learning styles of cross-sectional samples
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EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING THEORY 49
Accommodation
Convergence
Divergence
Assimilation
CE
RO
AC
AE
Integration
Self as process-
transacting with the
world
Specialization
Self as content
interacting
with the world
Acquisition
Self as
undifferentiated-
immersed in the
world
Increasing
complexity
and relativism
via the
integration of
dialectic
adaptive
modes
Figure 3.2 The experiential learning theory of growth and developement
of accounting and marketing students and
professionals in school and at lower, middle
and senior level career stages. The learning
styles of marketing and accounting students
were similar, being fairly balanced on the
four learning modes. Lower level accoun-
tants had convergent, abstract and active
learning styles, and this convergent emphasis
was even more pronounced in middle-level
accountants, reflecting a highly technical
specialization. The senior level accountants,
however, became more accommodative in
learning style, integrating their non-dominant
concrete learning orientation. Clark found
a similar pattern of development in the
marketing profession. Gypen found the same
move from specialization to integration in his
study of the learning styles of a cross-sectional
sample of social work and engineering alumni
from early to late career:
As engineers move up from the bench to man-
agement positions, they complement their initial
strengths in abstraction and action with the
previously non-dominant orientations of experience
and reflection. As social workers move from direct
service into administrative positions they move in
the opposite direction of the engineers. (Gypen,
1981: ii)
In ELT the concept of deep learning is intro-
duced to describe the developmental process
learning that fully integrates the four modes of
the experiential learning cycle experiencing,
reflecting, thinking and acting (Jensen and
Kolb, 1994; Border, 2007). Deep learning
refers to the kind of learning that leads
to development in the ELT developmental
model. ELT suggests that the basic learning
styles represent specialized and limited ways
of learning. Following Jung’s theory that
adult development moves from a specialized
way of adapting toward a holistic integrated
way, deep learning is seen as moving from
specialization to integration. Integrated deep
learning is a process involving a creative
tension among the four learning modes that
is responsive to contextual demands. This
is portrayed as an idealized learning cycle
or spiral where the learner ‘touches all the
bases’ experiencing, reflecting, thinking,
and acting in a recursive process that is
responsive to the learning situation and what
is being learned.
Development toward deep learning is
divided into three levels. In the first level
learning is registrative and performance
oriented, emphasizing the two learning modes
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50 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF MANAGEMENT LEARNING, EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT
of the specialized learning styles. The second
level is interpretative and learning oriented,
involving three learning modes, and the third
level is integrative and development oriented,
involving all four learning modes in a holistic
learning process. In his foundational work,
Learning from Experience toward Conscious-
ness, William Torbert (1972) described these
levels of learning as a three-tiered system of
feedback loops; work that has been extended
by Chris Argyris, Donald Schön, Peter Senge
and others in the concepts of single and double
loop learning.
The traditional lecture course, for example,
emphasizes first level, registrative learning,
accentuating the learning modes of reflection
and abstraction involving little action (often
multiple choice tests that assess registration
of concepts in memory) and little relation to
personal experience. Adding more extensive
learning assessments that involve practical
application of concepts covered can create
second level learning involving the three
learning modes where reflection supple-
mented by action serve to further deepen
conceptual understanding. Further addition
of learning experiences that involve personal
experience such as internships or field projects
create the potential for third level integrative
learning (cf. Kolb, 1984, Chapter 6). As a
counter example, an internship emphasizes
registrative learning via the modes action and
experience. Deeper interpretative learning can
be enhanced by the addition of activities to
stimulate reflection such as team conversation
about the internship experience and/or student
journals. Linking these to the conceptual
material related to the experience adds
the fourth learning mode, abstraction and
integration though completion of the learning
spiral.
MANAGEMENT AS A LEARNING
PROCESS
ELT offers a way to study management
as a learning process that is dynamic
and holistic, operating at the level of the
individual, the team and the organization.
When learning is defined holistically as
the basic process of human adaptation,
it subsumes more specialized managerial
processes such as entrepreneurial learning,
strategy formulation, creativity, problem solv-
ing and decision making and leadership. In
ELT these specialized management processes
tend to emphasize particular phases of the
learning cycle. Entrepreneurial learning tends
to emphasize the accommodating phases of
the learning cycle while strategy formulation
tends to emphasize the assimilating phases.
Creativity emphasizes the diverging phases
while problem solving and decision making
emphasize converging. Leadership style tends
to be related to learning style but is most
effective when it moves through the learning
cycle and is adaptive to task demands
(Robinson 2005; Carlsson et al., 1976). All
of these processes are enhanced when the full
cycle of learning is followed. For example
Corbett (2007) found that in the opportunity
identification phase of the entrepreneurial
process an abstract orientation is helpful
in addition to an active orientation. We
begin with research describing individual
managerial learning as a process of problem
management. Next research on experiential
learning in teams is reviewed followed
by the ELT approach to organizational
learning.
MANAGERIAL PROBLEM SOLVING
AND DECISION MAKING
Kilmann has argued that problem solving is
central to the managerial role:
One might even define the essence of manage-
ment as problem-defining and problem-solving,
whether the problems are well-structured, ill-
structured, technical, human, or even environmen-
tal. Managers of organizations would then be
viewed as problem managers, regardless of the
types of products and services they help their
organizations provide. (Kilmann, 1979: 214)
As we have noted, the experiential learning
cycle is a holistic model of adaptation
that encompasses more specialized models
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EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING THEORY 51
of the adaptive process. Numerous studies
have examined the relationship between
learning styles and problem solving behavior
(Armstrong and McDaniel, 1986; Donoghue,
1994; Grochow, 1974; Hendrick, 1979; Jervis,
1983; Katz, 1990; McCormick, 1987; Sanley,
1987; Selby et al., 2004; Wessel et al., 1999;
Yonutas, 2001). One example is Stabell’s
(1972) study of portfolio managers in the
trust department of a large Midwestern bank.
One aim of his study was to discover how
the learning styles of investment portfolio
managers affected their problem solving and
decision making in the management of the
assets in their portfolios. He found a strong
correspondence between the type of decisions
these managers faced and their learning
styles. More specifically, he found that
nearly all of the managers in the investment
advisory section of the department, a high-
risk, high-pressure job (as indicated by a
large percentage of discretionary accounts,
and a high performance and risk orientation
on the part of clients) had accommodative
learning styles (scoring very high on the
AE and CE LSI scales). On the other
hand, the managers in the personal trust
section, where risk and performance ori-
entations were low and there were few
discretionary accounts and fewer holdings in
common stock, scored highest on reflective
observation. He was also able to identify
differences, on the basis of their KLSI
scores, in the way managers went about
making investment decisions. He focused his
research on differences between managers
with concrete (CE) learning styles and abstract
(AC) learning styles. He asked these managers
to evaluate the importance of the information
sources they used in making decisions and
found several interesting differences. First,
concrete managers cited more people as
important sources (colleagues, brokers, and
traders), while the abstract managers listed
more analytically oriented printed material
as sources (economic analysis, industry
and company reviews. In addition, concrete
managers sought services that would give
them a specific recommendation that they
could accept or reject, while the abstract
managers sought information they could
analyze themselves in order to choose an
investment. This analytic orientation of the
abstract managers is further illustrated by the
fact that they tended to use more information
sources in their decisions than the concrete
managers.
These studies of learning style and prob-
lem solving, along with other problem
solving research, have been integrated into
an idealized problem-solving process model
that describes the fully functioning person
in optimal circumstances (Kolb, 1983, see
Figure 3.3). Ineffective problem solving devi-
ates from the ideal because of personal habits
and style as well as situational constraints
such as time pressure. The model has four
stages that correspond to the four stages of
the learning cycle Situation Analysis (CE),
Problem Analysis (RO), Solution Analysis
(AC), and Implementation Analysis (AE).
Each stage of the model has an opening
Situation
analysis
Problem
analysis
Valuing
Problem
as given
Problem
chosen
Priority
setting
Problem
definition
Problem
defined
Decision
making
Solution
chosen
Solution
imple-
mented
Planning
Information
gathering
Idea
getting
Participation
Solution
analysis
Implementation
analysis
Figure 3.3 The ELT problem management model
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52 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF MANAGEMENT LEARNING, EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT
‘green mode’ and closing ‘red mode’ phase.
This two-phase process of divergent opening
and convergent closing has been shown to
operate in studies of the learning and problem
solving process (McCarthy, 1987; Lingham,
2004; Jules, 2007).
In Situation Analysis, where the immediate
situational context is examined to determine
the right problem to work on, the green
mode is Valuing and the red mode is Priority
Setting. People who are strong in this stage
emphasize feeling over thinking and are good
at relating to others; they are often good
intuitive decision makers and function well
in unstructured situations; they have an open-
minded approach to life.
In Problem Analysis, the stage where the
problem is defined in terms of the essential
variables or factors that influence it, the green
mode is Information Gathering and the red
mode is Problem Definition. Managers who
are effective in this stage emphasize under-
standing as opposed to practical application,
a concern with what is true or how things
happen as opposed to what is practical, an
emphasis on reflection as opposed to action.
They like to rely on their own thoughts and
feelings to form opinions. People with this
orientation value patience, impartiality, and
thoughtful judgment.
In Solution Analysis, the stage where
possible solutions are generated and their
feasibility for solving the problem is examined
against the criteria defined in the previous
stage, the green mode is Idea Getting and the
red mode is Decision Making. People who
are strong in this stage emphasize thinking as
opposed to feeling, a concern with building
general theories as opposed to intuitively
understanding facts. They enjoy and are
good at systematic planning, manipulation of
abstract symbols and quantitative analysis;
they value precision, the rigor and discipline
of analyzing ideas, and the aesthetic quality
of a neat, conceptual system.
In Implementation Analysis, the stage
where tasks essential for implementing the
solution must be identified and organized
into a coherent plan with appropriate time
deadlines and follow-up evaluations, the
green mode is Participation and the red
mode is Planning. Managers who are strong
in this stage actively influence others and
change situations. They are more interested
in practical applications than they are in
understanding; that is they are more interested
in doing things than in observing. People with
an active experimentation orientation enjoy
and are good at getting things accomplished.
They are willing to take some risk to achieve
their objectives; they also value having an
impact and influence on the environment
around them and like to see results.
TEAM LEARNING
The experiential approach to learning in teams
has a long and rich history dating back to the
1940s and Kurt Lewin’s research on group
dynamics. Lewin’s discovery of the T-group
is worth examining. From this work emerged
three key insights that have framed research
on the experiential approach to team learning
as it has evolved over the years: (1) the pivotal
role of reflective conversation; (2) the theory
of functional role leadership; and (3) the
experiential learning process as the key to
team development.
To learn from their experience, teams must
create a conversational space where members
can reflect on and talk about their experience
together. In the summer of 1946, Lewin and
his colleagues designed a new approach to
leadership and group dynamics training for
the Connecticut State Interracial Commis-
sion. The two-week training program began
with an experiential emphasis encouraging
group discussion and decision making in
an atmosphere where staff and participants
were peers. The research and training staff
gathered extensive notes and recordings of
the group’s activities. They met each evening
to analyze the data collected during the day’s
meetings. Although it was the scientific norm
to analyze research objectively without the
subjective involvement of the participants;
Lewin was receptive when a small group of
participants asked to join these discussions.
One of the staff members in attendance
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EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING THEORY 53
was Ronald Lippitt, who described what
happened in a discussion attended by three
trainees:
Sometime during the evening, an observer made
some remarks about the behavior of one of
the three persons who were sitting in a
woman trainee. She broke in to disagree with the
observation and described it from her point of view.
For a while there was quite an active dialogue
between the research observer, the trainer, and
the trainee about the interpretation of the event,
with Kurt an active questioner, obviously enjoying
this different source of data that had to be coped
with and integrated. The evening session from
then on became the significant learning experience
of the day, with the focus on actual behavioral
events and with active dialogue about differences
of interpretation and observation of the events by
those who had participated in them. (Lippitt, in
Kolb, 1984: 9)
By creating a conversational space where
staff in analytic, objective roles could inte-
grate their ideas with the experiences and
observations of active group participants,
Lewin and his colleagues discovered the self-
analytic group and with it a powerful force for
team learning and development.
A team can develop a composite image of
itself by developing the capacity to reflect
on its experience through conversations that
examine and integrate differences in mem-
bers’ experiences on the team. This shared
image, which Mills (1967) calls executive
consciousness, becomes a guiding light that
enables the team to learn and shape itself to
respond effectively to the challenges of its
mission and environment. A team that cannot
see itself accurately is ultimately flying blind.
To develop executive consciousness a team
needs to create a hospitable conversational
space. Members need to respect and be
receptive to differing points of view; to take
time to reflect on consequences of action and
the big picture; and to desire growth and
development (Baker et al., 2002).
As a team develops from a group of
individuals into an effective learning system,
members share the functional roles necessary
for team effectiveness. In 1948, Kenneth
Benne and Paul Sheats described a new
concept of team roles and team leadership
based on the first National Training Labo-
ratory in Group Development. In contrast
to the then-prevailing idea that leadership
was a characteristic of the person and that
teams should be led by a single leader,
Benne and Sheats discovered that mature
groups shared leadership. While initially
group members were oriented to individual
roles focused on satisfying their personal
needs; they later came to share responsibility
for team leadership by organizing them-
selves into team roles. Some roles focused
on task accomplishment, such as initiator-
contributor, information seeker, coordinator,
and evaluator-critic; other roles focused on
group building and maintenance, such as
encourager, compromiser, standard setter,
and group-observer. While members tended
to choose roles based on their personality
dispositions, they also were able to adopt more
unfamiliar roles for the good of the group
(Benne and Sheats, 1948).
Teams develop by following the experiential
learning cycle. The laboratories in group
development, or T-groups as they came to be
known, were based on a model of learning
from experience known as the laboratory
method. This model was typically introduced
by the group trainer as follows:
Our goal here is to learn from our experience as
a group and thereby create the group we want to
be. We will do this by sharing experiences together
and reflecting on the meaning of these experiences
for each of us. We will use these observations and
reflections to create a collective understanding of
our group, which will serve to guide us in acting to
create the kind of group experience that we desire.
In ELT, the process of learning from experience
shapes and actualizes developmental potentialities.
(Kolb, 1984: 133)
Theodore Mills (1967) describes team
development as successive stages in the
sophistication of a team’s ability to learn.
At the higher stages of his model, a team
develops a system of executive consciousness.
‘Consciousness is gained through adding
to the function of acting the functions of
observing and comprehending the system that
is acting’ (p. 19). At this level, team members
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54 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF MANAGEMENT LEARNING, EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT
take on an executive role following the expe-
riential learning cycle: ‘He [sic] experiences,
observes, and assesses the realities of the
momentary situation. He acts and assesses the
consequences of his action upon the group’s
capability of coping with immediate demands
and future exigencies’ (p. 90). All team
members can take the executive role, forming
what Mills calls the executive system, ‘the
group’s center for assessment of itself and its
situations, for arrangement and rearrangement
of its internal and external relations, for
decision making and for learning, and for
‘learning how to learn’ through acting and
assessing the consequences of action’ (p. 93).
Thus, experiential learning and engagement
in the learning cycle provide the mechanisms
by which teams can transition from lower to
higher developmental stages.
Current research, involving different
methodologies and different educational and
workplace populations, has shown that ELT
is useful in understanding team learning and
performance. Studies support the proposition
that a team is more effective if it follows
the learning cycle in its work process and
emphasizes all four learning modes.
Summarized below are studies of team
member learning style, team roles, and team
norms.
Team member learning style. There have
been numerous studies that have investigated
the impact of team member learning style
diversity on team effectiveness. Most find that
teams whose members have different learning
styles are more effective than homogeneous
learning style teams (Hall, 1996; Halstead and
Martin, 2002; Kayes, 2001; Jackson, 2002;
Sandmire and Boyce, 2004; Sharpe, 2001;
Wolfe, 1977). For example, Jackson studied
the learning styles of ongoing workgroup
team members who participated in a paired
team competition. The exercise was designed
to require teamwork skills. Results showed
that teams with balanced learning styles
performed better. In 17 of the 18 team
pairs, the winning team average score was
higher than that of the losing team. Jackson
concluded, ‘Designing teams that reflect the
dynamic nature of team activities has great
appeal in that it gives all team members a
more equal opportunity to contribute and a
more equal opportunity to be valued. The
process model advocates that different team
members lead in different team activities or
learning situations (2002: 11).
A study by Jules (2007) examined the
influence of both learning style diversity
and experiential learning team norms on
team performance in a survey of 33 work
teams from six different industries. Overall,
both team member learning style diversity
and experiential learning work norms were
positively related to a team’s ability to make
decisions, to achieve its goals and to overall
team performance. However, learning style
diversity was not related to team experiential
learning norms, suggesting that other factors
than member composition such as team
leadership, team task or organization culture
influence team norms. This was supported
by the fact that learning style diversity
was positively related to performance in
teams with routine tasks, and unrelated to
performance in teams with non-routine tasks
and experiential team norms were more
strongly related to performance in teams with
non-routine tasks.
Team roles.Anumber of studies have exam-
ined the theory of functional role leadership
using the ELT framework (Fernandez, 1986,
1988; McMurray, 1998; Gardner and Korth,
1999). Park and Bang (2002) studied the
performance of 52 Korean industrial work
teams using the Belbin team role model,
which is conceptually linked to ELT (Jackson,
2002). They found that the best-performing
teams were those whose members adopted at
a high level all nine of Belbin’s roles covering
all stages of the learning cycle. They also
found that teams with roles that matched the
particular stage of a team’s work/learning
process performed best. Lingham (2004) in
a study of the conversational space norms
of 49 educational and work teams found
that teams performed more poorly with
members who were less satisfied and who
felt more psychologically unsafe when the
team had a single leader as opposed to sharing
leadership.
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EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING THEORY 55
Team norms. Carlsson, Keane, and Martin
used the ELT learning cycle framework to
analyze the bi-weekly reports of research
and development project teams in a large
consumer products corporation. Successful
project teams had work process norms that
supported a recursive cycling through the
experiential learning cycle. Projects that
deviated from this work process by skipping
stages or being stuck in a stage ‘indicated
problems deserving of management atten-
tion’ (1976: 38).
Two studies have explicitly examined
team conversational learning spaces with
norms that support the experiential learning
cycle. Wyss-Flamm (2002) selected from a
management assessment and development
course three multicultural student teams who
rated themselves as high in psychological
safety, defined as the ability of the team to
bring up and talk about difficult or poten-
tially psychologically uncomfortable issues.
Three of the teams rated themselves as low
in psychological safety. Through intensive
individual and team interviews, Wyss-Flamm
analyzed the teams’ semester-long expe-
rience. In teams with high psychological
safety, the conversations followed a recur-
sive experiential learning cycle: differences
were experienced among team members,
examined through reflective juxtaposition
that articulated learning, and culminated in
either an integration of the differences or
an affirmation of the contrast. Teams with
low psychological safety tended to have early
disturbing incidents that limited conversation
and made the conversational flow more
turbulent and conflict filled. Lingham (2004)
found that the more the teams supported the
experiential learning cycle through norms that
focused their conversation on interpersonal
diverging (concrete experience and reflective
observation) and task-oriented converging
(abstract conceptualization and active exper-
imentation), the better they performed, the
more satisfied they were with their mem-
bership on the team, and the more they felt
psychologically safe to take risks on the team.
Other studies of educational teams
(Gardner and Korth, 1997; Pauleen et al.,
2004) have found that interventions aimed
at the introduction of experiential learning
norms facilitated learning and transfer of
learning.
Education for team learning. Kayes et al.
(2005a) have integrated the above research
and other group theories into a theory of
experiential learning in teams that focus on
six aspects of team functioning purpose,
membership, roles, context, process and
action. Based on this theory, the Kolb Team
Learning Experience (KTLE Kayes et al.,
2004) was created as a structured written
simulation through which team members
learn about team functions while engaging
in the processes of knowledge creation,
reflection, critical thinking, and action taking.
Thus, team members learn how to learn as
the team progresses through activities and
problems in the team-learning workbook. The
team is encouraged to experience all stages of
the learning cycle multiple times and reflect
on its ability to continually experience these
stages. As the team learns, it increases its
ability to operate at higher developmental
stages within its functional aspects of purpose,
membership, roles, context, process, and
action taking (Kayes et al., 2005b).
ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING
Since its first formulation (Kolb, 1976) the
ELT approach to organizational learning has
been elaborated by a number of scholars
(Dixon, 1999; Hayes and Allinson, 1998;
Huczynski and Boddy, 1979); Kay and
Bawden, 1996; Kim, 1993; Ramnarayan
and Reddy, 1989; Lahteenmaki, Toivonen
and Mattila, 2001; Leroy and Ramanantsoa,
1997; Mumford, 1991; Popper and Lipshitz,
2000; Simonin, 1997; Thomas, 2002; Zhang
et al., 2006). Easterby-Smith (1997) in
his typology of contemporary organizational
learning theories classifies the ELT approach
as a human development, psychological and
organization development approach along
with the theories of Nonaka (1994); Argyris
(1992); Dixon (1999); Kim (1993); Mumford
(1991) and Revans 1971, 1980). True to its
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56 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF MANAGEMENT LEARNING, EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT
Lewinian social psychology origins, organiza-
tion learning in ELT is seen as a transactional
process between individuals and their envi-
ronment and between the organization and its
environment.
A central issue for most organizational
learning scholars is the relationship between
individual learning and organizational learn-
ing. In The Organizational Learning Cycle
Nancy Dixon translates the individual learn-
ing cycle of experiential learning to the orga-
nizational level by introducing the concept
of dialogue (Dixon, 1999) or conversational
learning (Baker et al., 2002) in the reflection
and conceptualization phases of the individ-
ual learning cycle describing organizational
learning as a cycle where employee direct
experiences and mental maps (CE, Nonaka’s
tacit knowledge) are shared in dialogue (RO),
interpreted collectively to create collectively
shared meaning (AC, explicit knowledge) as
the basis for responsible action (AE). Thus
the team learning from experience process
described in the previous section becomes a
pivotal linking pin between individual and
organizational learning.
At the individual level, learning from
experience leads to a ‘match’ between the
individual and their immediate organizational
environment, i.e. their work and functional
work setting. Through learning from previous
experiences that lead to choice of and/or
placement into jobs and on-the-job learning
to meet job demands, managers achieve a fit
between their skills and their job demands
that produces effective performance (Sims,
1981, 1983). The Learning Skills Profile
(Boyatzis and Kolb, 1991, 1995, 1997) was
developed as a holistic typology of learning
skills associated with the phases of the
experiential learning cycle to assess skills
and job demands in commensurate terms.
These job demand/learning skill profiles have
been used to assess skill development needs
for management training and development
programs (Kolb et al., 1986; Smith, 1990;
Rainey et al., 1993).
At the organizational level, learning is
a process of differentiation and integration
focused on mastery of the organizational
environment. The organization differentiates
itself into specialized units charged with
dealing with one aspect of the organizational
environment; marketing deals with the market
and customers, R&D with the academic and
technological community, etc. This creates a
corresponding internal need to integrate and
coordinate the specialized units.
Because specialized units need to relate
to different aspects of the environment
they develop characteristic ways of working
together, different styles of learning, prob-
lem solving and decision making. In fact,
Lawrence and Lorsch (1967: 11) define orga-
nizational differentiation as ‘the difference in
cognitive and emotional orientation among
managers in different functional departments.
From a learning perspective these repre-
sent differences in learning style. Previous
research has shown that educational special-
ization is a primary determinant of learning
style (Kolb, 1984; Kolb and Kolb, 2005b;
Joy and Kolb, 2007). Interestingly, in these
studies business majors tend on average to
end up in the middle of the learning style grid
with no particular specialized style. However,
research on the relationship between learning
style and business functional specialty has
shown consistent patterns of differentiation
(Loo, 2002a,b; Biberman and Buchanan,
1986; Jervis, 1983; Novin et al., 2003; Rowe
and Waters, 1992). Results from hese and
other studies suggest that the accommodating
learning style is characteristic of people in
sales and of general managers while the
assimilating style is characteristic of those in
the planning, research and development and
finance specialties. Accountants, production
managers and engineers tend to be converging
in their learning style while people in
marketing, human resources and organization
development tend to have diverging styles.
These associations are of course not perfect;
every function tends to have managers with
different styles in it. This is important both
for learning within the functional team and
for integration and communication with other
functions. For example, Kolb (1976) found
that those managers in marketing who devi-
ated from the dominant accommodating style
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EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING THEORY 57
by having an assimilating style communicated
better with the assimilative R&D department.
The reverse was also true of accommodating
managers in R&D.
Organizations have numerous ways of
achieving integration, such as strategic man-
agement, vision, leadership, organization cul-
ture and cross-functional teams. All of these
mechanisms are designed to resolve conflicts
between specialized units and achieve a
coherent direction for the organization. Too
often this integration is achieved through
domination of one functional mentality in
the organization culture. An example is the
case of an electronics firm started by a group
of entrepreneurial engineers who invented a
unique product (Osland et al., 2007). For a
number of years they had no competition
and when some competition appeared in the
market they continued to dominate because of
their superior engineering quality. It became
a different story when stiff competition
appeared and their very success created new
problems when the management approaches
of a small intimate company didn’t work
in a large organization with operations all
over the world. The engineering mentality
of the organization made specialists in
marketing, finance and human resources, who
were brought in to help the organization,
feel like second-class citizens. The organi-
zation’s strength, its engineering expertise,
had become its greatest weakness. Jervis
(1983) provides other similar case examples
from his studies of U.K. management teams.
For example, in a senior manufacturing
management team with managers who had
accommodating learning styles, the group was
seen as pursuing a ‘butterfly’ strategy’ which
concentrated on idea generation and action
and lacked systematic convergent evaluation
of projects.
From the ELT perspective organizational
learning requires that the opposing per-
spectives of action/reflection and concrete
involvement/analytical detachment are val-
ued and integrated into a process that
follows the whole learning cycle and is adap-
tive to changing environmental challenges
(Ramnarayan and Reddy, 1989).
EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING IN
MANAGEMENT EDUCATION
There is a long history of experiential learning
methods in management training and educa-
tion dating back to the popularity of Lewin’s
laboratory training methods for teaching
group dynamics in the 1960s. Although the
traditional ‘T-Group’ is now seldom used,
training programs and courses based on the
experiential learning cycle are widespread
and commonplace. The first management
textbook based on experiential learning was
published in 1971 (Kolb, Rubin and McIntyre,
1971b) and is now in its 8th edition (Osland
et al., 2007). The workbook resulted from
testing the feasibility of Lewin’s experiential
learning methods for teaching organizational
behavior. This workbook provides simula-
tions, role plays, and exercises (concrete
experiences) that focus on central concepts in
organizational behavior, providing a common
experiential starting point for participants and
faculty to explore the relevance of behavioral
concepts for their work. Each chapter is
organized around the learning cycle providing
the experience, structured reflection and
conversation exercises, conceptual material
and personal application assignments.
Research on learning styles has shown
that managers on the whole are distinguished
by strong active experimentation skills and
weaker reflective observation skills. Business
faculty members (and professors in general)
usually have the reverse profile. In traditional
management education methods, the conflict
between scholar and practitioner learning
styles is exaggerated because the material to
be taught is filtered through the learning style
of faculty in their lectures or presentation and
analysis of cases. Students are ‘one down’
in their own analysis because the data are
secondhand and already biased. In the experi-
ential learning approach, this filtering process
is reduced because teacher and students alike
are observers of immediate experiences that
they both interpret according to their own
learning style. In this approach to learning,
the teachers’ role is that of facilitators of a
learning process that is basically self-directed.
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58 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF MANAGEMENT LEARNING, EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT
They help students to experience in a personal
and immediate way the phenomena in their
field of specialization. They stand ready with
alternative theories and concepts as students
attempt to assimilate their observations into
their own conception of reality. They assist
in deducing the implications of the students’
concepts and in designing new ‘experiments’
to test these implications through practical,
real-world experience.
To bridge the gap in learning styles,
the management educator must respond to
pragmatic demands for relevance and the
application of knowledge, while encouraging
the reflective examination of experience that
is necessary to refine old theories and to
build new ones. In encouraging reflective
observation, the teacher is often seen as
an interrupter of action as a passive
‘ivory tower’ thinker. This is, however, a
critical role in the learning process. If the
reflective observer role is not internalized by
the learners themselves, the learning process
can degenerate into a value conflict between
teacher and the student, each maintaining that
theirs is the right perspective for learning.
The diverse learning style composition of
students in any given learning environment
suggests a need for an equally diverse learn-
ing processes and strategies. Understanding
individual learning style can be considered as
the entry point through which learners enter
a particular learning space and continue to
actively move around the space to acquire
complex knowledge and skills.
There are two goals in the experiential
learning process. One is to learn the specifics
of a particular subject, and the other is to learn
about one’s own learning process. These goals
present challenges associated with adoption
and implementation of experiential methods
in classrooms. Most frequently encountered
challenges are associated with the integration
of experiential learning methods into the
instructors’ current teaching preferences and
practices (Hickcox, 2002). Experiential learn-
ing methods place equal emphasis on content
and process involved in the acquisition of
knowledge and skills. As a consequence,
in comparison to a more traditional course
format, experiential learning methods require
a considerable amount of time and com-
mitment in preparation of courses. They
may also require smaller class sizes in
order to accommodate various experiential
activities, and they call for holistic assessment
methods that adequately evaluate all facets
of student learning (Mellor, 1991; Sprau and
Keig, 2001).
In 1987, Svinick and Dixon published an
influential paper describing a comprehen-
sive instructional model to deal with the
constraints and challenges instructors and
students encounter in the face of adopting
experiential learning as the instructional
design framework. The model offers an
instructional design approach that incorpo-
rates a broad range of classroom activities
that lead students through the full cycle of
learning, thus giving instructors a rich array
of instructional choices as well as the benefit
of offering students a more complete learning
experience gained from multiple perspectives.
Additionally, it offers a useful model that
responds to one of the key challenges of
the experiential methods adapting teaching
strategies to student readiness to engage
in experiential learning. As the model in
Figure 3.4 suggests, instructors are able to
design their classroom activities based upon
how much student involvement would be
appropriate. Activities at the outer rim of
the learning cycle allow for greater student
involvement, while those close to the center
involve limited student participation.
The following studies conducted in the
fields of accounting, business and manage-
ment, and marketing describe examples of the
current state of the art in the use of ELT in
course design.
Siegel et al. (1997) conducted a controlled
field experiment to test the effectiveness
of video simulation as a way to integrate
experiential learning theory in the teaching
of auditing in their accounting course. The
videotape used in the experiment followed
the principles of experiential learning in
teaching the fundamental steps in auditing.
The results of the experiment indicated
significantly higher examination scores for the
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EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING THEORY 59
Direct experience
Recall of experience
Inclass experience (Lab)
Simulations
Films/lapes
Field work
Labs Homework Simulations Examples
Rhetorical questions
in lecture
Discussion
Thought questions
for readings
Brainstoming Journals
Logs
Projects Case studies Lecture
Lecture examples
Lecture analogies, descriplions
Text reading
Model critiques
Paper, project proposais
Model building exercises
STUDENT
AS
RECEIVER
S
T
U
D
E
N
T
A
S
A
C
T
O
R
Figure 3.4 Degree of direct student involvement in various teaching methods
Source: Adapted from: Svinick, M.D. & Dixon, N.M. (1987). The Kolb model modified for classroom activities.
College Teaching, 35 (4): 141–6.
experimental groups supporting the value of
experiential learning for improving effective-
ness in teaching auditing.
Specht (1991) examined the effect of
an experiential learning method in student
learning in an undergraduate accounting
course compared to another class conducted
using a traditional lecture method. The results
revealed no significant differences in short-
term learning between the two course formats;
however, the experiential class demonstrated
retention of knowledge over a six-week
period whereas a significant decrease in the
scores of the lecture class was observed.
The authors concluded that students in the
experiential learning classroom may have
formed a better understanding of the concepts,
thus successfully retaining knowledge better
than students in the lecture class.
In applying experiential learning in his
accounting course Umapathy (1985) under-
scores the importance of the role of the expe-
riential instructor for a successful adoption
and implementation of experiential learning
curricula. Experiential exercises have proven
to be effective in generating considerable
student involvement and participation in
the learning process, with increased student
capacity to retain knowledge for a longer
period of time.
Certo designed a series of experiential
training activities for an undergraduate man-
agement course based on the four dimensions
of the learning cycle. In conducting those
activities, the instructor assumed the role of
an experiential facilitator by ‘encouraging
high levels of student participation; creating
a learning environment conducive to learn
new behaviors; providing theoretical clari-
fication; and emphasizing both content and
process’ (1976: 22). In a later study he
further articulates the value of experiential
learning as a methodology of education that
focuses on the whole person and emphasizes
the critical role of the facilitator as an
active experiential instructor who blends
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60 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF MANAGEMENT LEARNING, EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT
with a proper balance experience, reflection,
conceptualization, and action in the classroom
activities (Certo, 1977).
In order to respond to mounting criticism
of the inadequacy of business education Sims
and Sauser (1985) proposed an experiential
learning model as a theoretical basis to design
management curricula intended to develop
managerial competencies in business stu-
dents. The authors offer seven core principles
that need to be in place if such curricula are
to be successfully implemented: 1. Ability to
face new situation and problems; 2. Emphasis
on both theory and practice; 3. Opportunity
to have a direct managerial experience;
4. Relevant and reliable assessment methods;
5. Effective feedback; 6. Increased self-
knowledge; and 7. Reflection and integration
as a key final step in the acquisition of
competency.
In his organizational behavior course
McMullan and Cahoon (1979) applied Kolb’s
experience based learning evaluation instru-
ment. The PersonalApplication Memo (PAM)
was designed to raise student awareness of
the distinct learning process involved at each
step of the learning cycle. For example,
students often have difficulty in differentiating
objective experiences from personal reactions
to those experiences. Similarly, an individ-
ual’s tendency to focus only on personally
useful concepts make it difficult for them
to discriminate between abstract conceptu-
alization and active experimentation in a
given situation. By discriminating between
the abstract conceptualizing and the active
experimentation students will be forced to
clarify the implicit assumptions and values
that guide their actions. The PAM requires
students to rigorously evaluate their own
learning process and encourage behavioral
patterns that lead to meaningful and pur-
poseful actions. Such rigorous examination of
one’s learning process was foreign to most
of the students and consequently frustrating
to many. PAM activities made the familiar
and obvious way of learning uncertain and
problematic for most of them. As the authors
suggest, ‘such a situation is ripe for learning,
challenging students to move beyond the
safety of their predictable and familiar ways
of learning’ (1979: 457).
Gopinah and Sawyer (1999) developed a
computer-based enterprise simulation based
on experiential learning in a business course
to bridge the gap between knowledge and its
application in the business world. The results
of the simulation show that the recursive
nature of experiential learning promotes
strategic decision-making and group behavior
consistent with long-term strategy.
Lengnick-Hall and Sanders (1997)
designed a learning system in the graduate
and undergraduate level management courses
structured around the learning cycle to
give students a variety of ways to master
each segment of the course material.
Results indicate that despite the wide
variety in their learning styles, experiences,
academic levels, and interests, students
demonstrated consistently high levels
of personal effectiveness, organizational
effectiveness, ability to apply course
materials, and satisfaction with both course
results and learning process. The study
also showed learning style differences
in student ratings of various outcome
measures; divergent learners rated their
personal effectiveness higher than the
non-divergent learners, while assimilating
learners rated the lowest on the same outcome
measure. Converging learners, on the other
hand, rated their ability to apply course
material significantly higher than did the
non-converging learners, an indication of
their tendency to seek out opportunities to
apply what they have learned. Looking at
the positive learning outcomes generated
by the courses, the authors contend that
high-quality learning systems are the ones
in which extensive individual differences
are matched with a variety of options in
learning methods, thus creating opportunities
for student behavioral, emotional, and
intellectual transformation of lasting impact.
Dissatisfied with the application of expe-
riential methods in the business class-
rooms, Dyer and Schumann developed an
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EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING THEORY 61
experiential learning laboratory classroom
applied to their marketing course:
We believe that, to date, the application of
experiential methods in the business classroom
has frequently been incomplete and has there-
fore diluted the promise of experiential process.
Educators have spent their time ‘parroting’ the
instructional approaches of other teachers rather
than ‘partnering’ experience and knowledge as
intended by experiential learning models and the
traditional laboratory method. (1993: 32)
In order to create a true laboratory expe-
rience in marketing classrooms, the authors
developed the Knowledge/Experience Inte-
gration Learning Model in the senior-level
marketing advertising/promotion class. In this
class, the text assignments and lectures were
integrated with experiences generated from
two types of learning tasks, multiple group
projects and multiple individual case stud-
ies. The traditional performance evaluations
(multiple choice and essay exams) were
eliminated altogether to give central focus
on the recursive cycle of lecture, discus-
sion, feedback, and hands-on experiences.
At the completion of the course students
reported increased level of critical thinking
abilities and capacity to apply and connect
theoretical knowledge with real-life business
application.
From the above research and the ELT
concept of learning space we have created
the following principles for the promotion of
experiential learning in education (Kolb and
Kolb, 2005, 2006):
Respect for Learners and their Experi-
ence We refer to this as the Cheers/Jeers
continuum. At one end learners feel that
they are members of a learning community
who are known and respected by faculty and
colleagues and whose experience is taken
seriously, a space ‘where everybody knows
your name’. At the other extreme are learning
environments where learners feel alienated,
alone, unrecognized and devalued.
Begin Learning with the Learner’s Expe-
rience of the Subject Matter The cog-
nitive constructivist theories of Piaget and
Vygotsky emphasize that people construct
new knowledge and understanding from what
they already know and believe based on their
previous experience.
Creating and Holding a Hospitable Space
for Learning To learn requires facing and
embracing differences; be they differences
between skilled expert performance and one’s
novice status, differences between deeply held
ideas and beliefs and new ideas or differences
in the life experience and values of others.
These differences can be challenging and
threatening, requiring a learning space that
encourages the expression of differences and
the psychological safety to support the learner
in facing them.
Making Space for Conversational
Learning Human beings naturally make
meaning from their experiences through
conversation. Yet genuine conversation in
the traditional lecture classroom can be
extremely restricted or non-existent. Making
space for good conversation as part of the
educational process provides the opportunity
for reflection on and meaning making about
experiences that improves the effectiveness
of experiential learning.
Making Spaces for Acting and Reflecting
Learning is like breathing; it involves a taking
in and processing of experience and a putting
out or expression of what is learned. Yet many
programs in higher education are much more
focused on impressing information on the
mind of the learner than on opportunities for
the learners to express and test in action what
they have learned.
Making Spaces for Feeling and Thinking
Current brain research offers convincing
research evidence that reason and emotion
are inextricably related in their influence
on learning and memory. Indeed it appears
that feelings and emotions have primacy
in determining whether and what we learn.
Negative emotions such as fear and anxiety
can block learning, while positive feelings of
attraction and interest may be essential for
learning. To learn something that one is not
interested in is extremely difficult.
Making Space for Inside-out Learning
Linking educational experiences to the
learners interests kindles intrinsic motivation
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62 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF MANAGEMENT LEARNING, EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT
and increases learning effectiveness. Learning
spaces that emphasize extrinsic reward can
drive out intrinsically motivated learning.
Making Space for Development of Exper-
tise Research on expert learners shows that
effective learning requires not only factual
knowledge, but the organization of these facts
and ideas in a conceptual framework and the
ability to retrieve knowledge for application
and transfer to different contexts. Such deep
learning is facilitated by deliberate, recursive
practice on areas that are related to the
learners goals.
Making Space for Learners to Take Charge
of their own Learning Many students enter
higher education conditioned by their pre-
vious educational experiences to be passive
recipients of what they are taught. Making
space for students to take control of and
responsibility for their learning can greatly
enhance their ability to learn from experience.
EVALUATION OF ELT RESEARCH
ELT was developed following Lewin’s plan
for the creation of scientific knowledge by
conceptualizing phenomena through formal,
explicit, testable theory. In his approach
‘before a system can be fully useful the
concepts in it have to be defined in a
way that (1) permits the treatment of both
the qualitative and quantitative aspects of
phenomena in a single system, (2) adequately
represents the conditional-genetic (or causal)
attributes of phenomena, (3) facilitates the
measurement (or operational definition) of
these attributes, and (4) allows both gen-
eralization to universal laws and concrete
treatment of the individual case’ (Cartwright,
1951: ix). A theory developed by this process
can be a powerful instrument for stimulating
and focusing scholarly research conversation.
Since its first statement in 1971 (Kolb,
1971; Kolb et al., 1971), there have been many
studies using ELT to advance the theory and
practice of experiential learning. Since ELT
is a holistic theory of learning that identifies
learning style differences among different
academic specialties, it is not surprising to see
that ELT research is highly interdisciplinary,
addressing learning and educational issues in
many fields. An analysis of the 1,004 entries
in the 1999 bibliography (Kolb et al., 2001)
shows 207 studies in management, 430 in
education, 104 in information science, 101 in
psychology, 72 in medicine, 63 in nursing, 22
in accounting and 5 in law.About 55 percent of
this research has appeared in refereed journal
articles, 20 percent in doctoral dissertations,
10 percent in books and book chapters,
and 15 percent in conference proceedings,
research reports, and others. Since 2000 ELT
research in these fields around the world has
more than doubled. The current experiential
learning theory bibliographies (Kolb and
Kolb, 2007a,b) include over 2,500 entries.
Included are research studies from every
region of the world with many contributions
coming from the U.S., Canada, Brazil,
the U.K., China, India, Australia, Japan,
Norway, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands,
and Thailand. These studies support the cross-
cultural validity of ELT and the KLSI and also
support practical applicability across cultures.
The KLSI has been translated into many lan-
guages, including English, Spanish, French,
Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Dutch, German,
Swedish, Chinese, Romanian, Persian, Thai,
and Japanese. The value of the holistic
ELT framework for understanding cultural
differences has been shown in a number of
studies on cross-cultural management (Kayes
et al., 2005; Kayes et al., 2006; Yamazaki and
Kayes, 2004; Yamazaki and Kayes, 2007).
There have been two comprehensive
reviews of the ELT literature, one qualita-
tive and one quantitative. In 1991 Hickox
extensively reviewed the theoretical origins
of ELT and qualitatively analyzed 81 studies
that focused on the application of the ELT
model as well as on the application of the
concept of learning style in accounting and
business education, helping professions, med-
ical professions, post-secondary education
and teacher education. She concluded that
overall 61.7 percent of the studies supported
ELT, 16.1 percent showed mixed support, and
22.2 percent did not support ELT. In 1994 Iliff
conducted a meta-analysis of 101 quantitative
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EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING THEORY 63
LSI studies culled from 275 dissertations and
624 articles that were qualitative, theoretical,
and quantitative studies of ELT and the
Kolb Learning Style Inventory (LSI, Kolb
1971, 1985, 1999a, 2005). Using Hickox’s
evaluation format he found that 49 studies
showed strong support for the LSI, 40 showed
mixed support and 12 studies showed no
support.About half of the 101 studies reported
sufficient data on the LSI scales to compute
effect sizes via meta-analysis. Most studies
reported correlations that fell in the .2 to .5
range for the LSI scales. In conclusion Iliff
suggested that the magnitude of these statistics
is not sufficient to meet standards of predictive
validity, while noting that the LSI was not
intended to be a predictive psychological
test like IQ, GRE or GMAT. The LSI was
originally developed as a self-assessment
exercise and a means for construct validation
of ELT. Judged by the standards of construct
validity ELT has been widely accepted as
a useful framework for learning centered
educational innovation, including instruc-
tional design, curriculum development, and
life-long learning. Academic field and job
classification studies viewed as a whole also
show a pattern of results consistent with the
ELT structure of knowledge theory.
Most of the debate and critique in the
ELT/LSI literature has centered on the psy-
chometric properties of the LSI. Results from
this research have been of great value in
revising the LSI in 1985, in 1999 and again in
2005 (Kolb and Kolb 2005b). Recent critique
has been more focused on the theory than the
instrument examining the intellectual origins
and underlying assumptions of ELT from what
might be called a critical theory perspective
where the theory is seen as individualistic,
cognitivist, and technological (e.g. Vince,
1998; Holman et al., 1997; Hopkins, 1993).
Kayes (2002) has reviewed these and other
critics of ELT and offered his own critique
of the critics. He suggests that critics have
overlooked the role of Vygotsky’s social
constructivist learning theory in the ELT
theory of development and the role of personal
knowledge and social knowledge in expe-
riential learning. He proposes an extension
of ELT based on Lacan’s post-structuralist
analysis that elaborates the fracture between
personal and social knowledge and the role
that language plays in shaping experience.
SUMMARY
The key concepts from ELT the learning
cycle, learning style, learning space, deep
learning and development can be used to
examine management as a learning process at
the level of the individual, the team and the
organization. They can also serve as useful
tools to design and implement management
education programs in higher education
and management training and development.
Research on ELT has today reached a level
of maturity around the world such that the
key challenges ahead lie in the application and
institutionalization of these practices in order
to improve management education, learning
and development.
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  • ... The simulation scenario provides the concrete experience and is the basis for reflective observation through debriefing, where meaning is made of the experience. (Kolb & Kolb, 2009;Reed, 2012). Learning is described as a process and not in terms of outcomes. ...
    ... The adaptive process of learning is holistic, involving thinking, feeling, perceiving, and behaving. Knowledge is created through grasping and transforming an experience (Kolb & Kolb, 2009). ...
    ... In any type of debriefing, participants should be encouraged to reflect on and discuss the completed SBE, with feedback provided by both facilitator and participants regarding SBE performance. The purpose of debriefing is to move toward assimilation and accommodation for transfer of learning to future situations (INACSL, 2016a), and as described by ELT, to move learners through the learning cycle (Fanning & Gaba, 2007;Kolb & Kolb, 2009). ...
    Article
    Full-text available
    Background Debriefing is considered to be where the bulk of learning takes place. Examination of debriefing is needed to help determine if facilitation methods effectively contribute to the learning process. More instruments are needed to evaluate all key debriefing elements, and no tools exist that evaluate participant engagement in the learning process. Method Kolb’s experiential learning theory was used to inform tool development. The focus of the new instrument is behaviors that indicate engagement with the learning process as the learner moves through Kolb’s learning cycle. A qualitative study of debriefing facilitators was performed, and a behaviorally anchored instrument was then created. A subject matter expert review process was used to help establish validity. Reliability was evaluated in a research study looking at inter-rater consistency. Results The new instrument is used to count learning and engagement behaviors that are exhibited in a debriefing session. Conclusion The instrument is ready for use in debriefing research studies, helping evaluate participant engagement in the learning process by identifying learning and engagement behaviors that they may exhibit during a debriefing.
  • ... Fuente: Kolb & Kolb, 2009. Los estilos de aprendizaje son relativamente estables en el tiempo, aunque no inmutables, pues un mismo estudiante puede desarrollar un estilo más que otro y transformar su estilo predominante. ...
    ... La determinación del estilo de aprendizaje predominante es definida por medio de la sustracción de las puntuaciones totales de las habilidades de Experiencia Concreta y Conceptualización Abstracta (CA -EC) y de las habilidades de Observación Reflexiva y Experimentación Activa (EA -OR). El estilo de aprendizaje predominante es el resultado de los dos valores de sustracción (Kolb & Kolb, 2009). ...
    ... Por otro lado, un resultado relevante es que el nivel de desarrollo de las habilidades de observación reflexiva, conceptualización abstracta y experimentación activa analizadas individualmente tienen influencia en la búsqueda de ayuda. Eso indica que hay una mayor predisposición de los estudiantes en buscar ayuda de sus pares y profesores en su proceso de aprendizaje (Weinstein & Mayer, 1983, Kolb & Kolb, 2009, Vivas-Lopez, 2010, Credé & Phillips, 2011. Los profesores deben ser sensibles a los diversos factores que están presentes en la vida de los estudiantes y considerar sus diferentes niveles de aprendizaje, lo que también requiere de profesionalidad y la disposición a adoptar diferentes estrategias de enseñanza en los contextos que se le presenten, una vez que cada uno de ellos tiene un propósito a lograr (Gaeta & Masetto, 2013). ...
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    The purpose of this article is to analyze the relationships between learning styles and student learning strategies of two universities located in Brazil and Spain. The quantitative and descriptive study was conducted with a sample of 106 students of the last year of the course of administration and business management (BM) of both countries. The instruments for data collection were: the inventory of the learning styles of David Kolb (1984) and the learning strategies of the MSLQ (Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire) of Pintrich et al. (1993). The results revealed that there are no significant differences between learning strategies and learning styles. Therefore, it cannot be affirmed that a student with a certain predominant learning style presents levels of development of learning strategies different from those of a student with another learning style. The main contribution of this article to the teaching practice is that it reveals the importance of analyzing both the learning strategies, as well as the abilities and learning styles of the students to plan teaching strategies focused on the student in order to improve their cognitive abilities and help them better manage their studies.
  • ... This model indicates that knowledge is constructed by tension between the four stages, each of which responds to contextual demands (Kolb & Kolb, 2009); it portrays and idealizes a learning cycle in which learners are engaged in experiencing, reflecting, thinking and following a recursive process that is congruent with the learning environment and knowledge being learned . ...
    Article
    Although Kolb’s experiential learning model has been widely used and remains among the most influential frameworks in the fields of human resource development, management education and higher education, it has been criticized for failing to propose a second‐order learning process. The purpose of this study was to revise Kolb’s model by addressing its limitations. The revised model consists of (1) expected and unexpected experiences, (2) the management of emotions, (3) reflective analysis, (4) abstract conceptualization, (5) unlearning, and (6) active experimentation. Developed from the revised model, we created a checklist for debriefing experience‐based training programs. The contribution of this study is its development of a framework and a checklist for deep experiential learning.
  • ... Presently, ICT is utilised to enhance organisational knowledge assets and the generation of knowledge bases. The rationale for the domination of the KM field by the ICT discipline is due to its role in the facilitation of direct, one-to-one, indirect, (many-to-one), and indefinite (many-to-many), communication networks designed across time and space (Kolb & Kolb, 2009). Intriguingly, numerous KM practitioners and scholars who support this approach regard information and knowledge as synonymous representations but knowledge, unlike information, is concerned with beliefs and commitment (Matus & Infante, 2011). ...
    Research
    Introduction Knowledge management (KM) is the procedure that a firm uses to handle its knowledge assets with the intent of creating value and attaining strategic requirements. KM encompasses initiatives and processes that maintain and augment the storage, valuation sharing, refinement, and construction of knowledge (Girard, 2015); therefore, KM is linked to organisational goals. Information is vitally useful in the corporate world today. Access to accurate information can aid a business to restructure its goods and services suitably. By doing so, the business will have favourable prospects. KM sources information from multiple sources and attempts to organise this information in an opportune approach that can be conveniently accessed by anyone that needs the information. KM and organisational learning (OL) are terms that are often used interchangeably, particularly at the practical level (King, 2009). There is no primary difference between the two concepts since OL also involves the learning, sharing, and storage of information within a firm. The only difference between the two concepts is in term of approach. OL focuses on learning with an emphasis on the individual, whereas KM focuses on learning with an emphasis on knowledge itself (King, 2009).
  • ... Building on the conceptual and empirical legacy of Kurt Lewin, John Dewey and others, experiential learning is achieved through 1 The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was an executive order passed by President Obama in 2012 that offered undocumented youth, if they met certain requirements, a two-year period of deferred action from deportation and a US work permit (US Citizenship and Immigration Services 2019). reflection on doing and by being engaged with the dual dialectics of action/reflection and experience/abstraction (Kolb and Kolb 2009). ...
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    This essay details some of the challenges I encountered in the fall of 2016, during my class on contemporary migration flows at Queens College, CUNY. The impending national elections, with Donald Trump as the front-runner in the Republican primaries, made for a tense classroom climate. Early in the semester, a handful of my students began voicing opinions that ran counter to the pro-immigrant principles of most of their peers. In more than one instance, students (on both sides) raised their voices to the point where nobody could hear another’s point of view. Through experiential learning projects, I was ultimately able to channel my students’ acrimonious debates into new ideas drawn from data-informed research findings. By the end of the semester, my classroom became a “give and take” arena in which students became compassionate listeners of one another’s opinions and research experiences.
  • ... We can consider creativity and learning as continuous, iterative, and dynamic processes that integrate experience, cognition, and behavior (Kolb, Boyatzis, & Mainemelis, 2001). Experiential learning transforms experience into learning (Akella, 2010) and creativity (Gundy & Kickul, 1996) and has important implications for management and leadership within organizations (Kolb & Kolb, 2009a). Experience, as it relates to both learning and creativity, can be perceived as positive or negative. ...
  • ... PBL confronts students with authentic problems similar to real work activities, and it helps to develop soft skills, such as teamwork and collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity, among others [30]. PBL theory is founded on experiential learning [31], inquiry-based learning [32], and constructivist theory [33]. PBL proposes from the beginning the obtaining of a concrete solution for a problem [34]. ...
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    Higher education institutions play an important role in the transition processes to sustainable development through developing critical thinking (CT) in their students. The case of the Research Methodology course of the International Cooperation Master’s degree at the Universitat Politècnica de València is a paradigmatic case of experiential learning, where students face their own realities related to sustainable topics through an action research project with the Agroecological Market (AM). The learning methodology is project-based learning and helps the participants to deeply analyze problems related to the transition of socio-technical systems, such as sustainable food. The objective of this research was to analyze the contribution of project-based learning to students’ critical thinking through a qualitative analysis of the pedagogical outputs obtained during the course. The analysis and results are structured in three dimensions of critical thinking: (i) students’ critical attitude towards reality; (ii) students’ ability to reason and analyze in order to form their own rigorous judgments; and (iii) students’ capacity to construct and deconstruct their own experiences and meanings. The results show that project-based learning using a real-life scenario helped students reflect on their critical thinking and the challenges that our societies face for a transition to sustainability.
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  • Chapter
    Opposite to the ideation processes that follow the sequence ‘sketch-scale drawing-model-plans’, we propose the experience of starting out directly with the physical model to, using the low cost photogrammetry method, obtain its projection views (in CAD format) and the development of the production drawings of the idea or project.
  • Chapter
    Gentrification is now widespread everywhere, changing the liveability, diversity, and equality of cities. As a phenomenon in urban development, it has been researched widely and extensively. The definition of gentrification, however, has recently become more diffuse as it takes on different forms and has different causes and effects in cities everywhere in the world. Gentrification is an irreversible process that may bring development and progress to neighbourhoods, but that may also involve eviction and inequality. This emphasises the need for equipping urban practitioners with an understanding of gentrification and with the ability to recognise the context in which it takes place in their own cities, as a first step to taking possible action, making improvements, and benefitting the liveability of cities and their communities. This chapter analyses a practice-oriented learning method developed for urban practitioners from various backgrounds and primarily Global South countries in an attempt to achieve this. The method was based on David A. Kolb’s experiential learning cycle, in combination with Robert Chambers’ rapid appraisals. Previous applications of the method in Amsterdam (2017) and Yogyakarta (early 2018) were considered, with a more in-depth evaluation of the learning experiences of practitioners in Rotterdam in late 2018. Generally, the method received positive feedback from participating practitioners, as well as useful suggestions for further improvement.