As we saw in the first instalment, Kolb came up with the four-stage learning cycle. From this he derived his learning theory, which describes four distinct learning styles directly related to those 4 stages.

He states that every individual prefers a certain learning style. Which one is influenced by factors like social environment, previous educational experiences and upbringing. Of course the basic cognitive structure (how your brain works physically) of the individual also is a strong factor. That means even genetics come into play.

Two variables

The learning style itself is the product of two pairs of variables which Kolb presented as lines of axis. Those 2 separate choices we make have conflicting modes at either end of those axis.

In his iconic presentation of this system the horizontal axis is called de Processing Continuum, or how we approach a task? The Vertical axis represents our emotional response and is called the Perception Continuum.

Kolb believes, somewhat controversially we cannon perform both variables on a single axis at the same time. Which would mean we can't think and feel at the same time. However later clarifications did mean we can alternate them very fast so we perceive them happening at the same time.

Anyway, our learning style is the product of the decision we make in those 2 choices.

This circle is also presented at times in a two by two matrix.

If you know a person (or your own) preferred learning style you can orient your study process around this style. At the same time you still need to pass all 4 phases of the circle to effectively learn something.

Your preferred learning style indicates the ideal starting point in the learning circle. If you start there, your studying will almost always yield the best possible results.

We will briefly explain the four styles:


People who prefer this style are able to use a lot of different perspectives. They are sensitive and prefer watching over doing. They want to gather information first and use their imagination to solve problems. They are very good in evaluating concrete situations from several different viewpoints.

People with a diverging learning style are good at brainstorming and usually have broad cultural interests. They like to gather information, are interested in people. They have a lively imagination and can get emotional. They are artistic and like to work in group, are open minded and like to receive personal feedback.


Assimilating as a learning style stands for a logical approach. Ideas and concepts are more important than people. A person with this style needs a good clear explanation instead of a practical opportunity. They organize all information in a clear logical format and are very good in understanding a wide range of information ... and lots of it.

They focus on ideas and abstract concepts and prefer logically sound theories over practical use. It is an effective learning style for people who seek information and science careers. They like to study using a lot of reading, attending lectures and using analytical models. They want and need time to think things through.


If you are someone who can solve problems and wants to learn to find solutions for very practical situations, you probably prefer the converging learning style. Folks like that prefer technical tasks and are less concerned with people and interpersonal aspects. They excel in finding practical uses for theories and ideas. They are problem solvers by nature and good at making decisions by finding solutions to problems and questions.

They are attracted to technical tasks. The style enables specialist and technology abilities. They like to experiment a lot with new ideas and always look for the practical use of things.


Accommodating people are the one who push all the buttons on the remote before checking the manual. They have a hands-on style and prefer intuition to logic. They will use other people's analysis and go for a more practical approach using a lot of experimentation. They thrive on new challenges and experiences and love it when a plan comes together.

They go a lot with their gut instinct and will rely on others for more abstract information. This is the most used style by what Kolb calls the 'general population'.

Importance of style and situation

Now it is important to know almost no one strictly prefers one style for 100%. In fact, while some work more for us then others, we do tend to use all four of them. And depending on the situation one might be better then the other, and even feel more natural and more effective than the one we normally prefer. Also, people with a high IQ tend to be able to switch a lot through them just to make sure they don't get bored too fast.

It pays to use a test to determine which your most natural style is. Use that info mainly to think about your study methods, especially if you feel what you do right now is not working for you as it should.

Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development on amazon
Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development on amazon uk

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