Child Development Theories: David Kolb

Child Development

Child Development Theories: David Kolb

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David Kolb is an American educational theorist perhaps best known for his theory of experiential learning. Another aspect of his work focussed on learning styles and has contributed valuable insights for educators.

David Kolb’s experiential learning theory

David Kolb (1939- ), an American educational theorist, developed a theory of experiential learning using a model viewed as a four-stage cycle:

1. The individual’s immediate and concrete experience forms the basis of an observation.

2. The individual reflects on the experience and starts to construct a broad theory of possible implications.

3. The individual forms abstract concepts based on their reflections and working hypothesis.

4. The individual tests the newly formed concepts.

Following this, the learner can then repeat the process through further cycles to develop and refine the experiential learning outcomes.

Learning styles

Kolb’s work on preferred learning styles begins with a Learning Style Inventory which assesses the learner’s preferences using two continuums:

  • Active experimentation ←→ Reflective observation
  • Abstract conceptualisation ←→ Concrete experience

These attributes can be combined in four ways to outline four different types of learner:

The Converger

These learners have dominant strengths in the areas of Abstract Conceptualisation and Active Experimentation. They skilfully apply practical ideas and excel when a problem has one best answer.

The Diverger

A diverger’s dominant capabilities lie in Concrete Experience and Reflective Observation (a mirror image of the converger). These learners see the big picture and so are good at sorting details to form a meaningful whole. They tend to be creative and emotional and enjoy developing new ideas. This learning style is typical of artists and musicians.

The Assimilator

Assimilators excel in Abstract Conceptualisation and Reflective Observation. Thus they easily understand, and readily create, theoretical models. They favour abstract ideas more than people, but show little interest in the practical application of theories. This learning style is typical of scientists, mathematicians, planners and researchers.

The Accommodator

Accommodators are strongest in areas such as Concrete Experience and Active Experimentation (a mirror image of the assimilator). Accommodators are practical: they enjoy real-world planning and experimentation. Accommodators also tend to be very prone to risk-taking. They excel at impromptu responses to new information, and commonly use trial-and-error methods to solve problems. Thus accommodators often work in sales and marketing or in technical fields which are action-oriented.

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