The Kolb Model: Formation of Generalizations

Developing reflective practice helps students learn from their life experiences. In the Kolb Model or Cycle, experiential learning occurs through “concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation” (Kolb, 1984, p. 76). Learning goes beyond having an experience; the learner must evaluate the experience to develop generalizations or theories and apply them in other contexts.

Students engage various meta-cognitive processes in understanding concepts and form generalizations after self-evaluation of their learning experiences. The writer finds ‘learning by doing’ a useful learning principle in assessing tasks and linking past experiences to educational theory. According to Cantor (1995), learning by doing achieves three goals, namely, it encourages transformational learning, fosters social action, and develops experiential learning skills. It is described as a hybrid between “reflection and process” (Kornell & Bjork, 2007, p. 220). It calls for ‘abstract conceptualization’ that combines the past analysis and theory to form testable conclusions. The learners engage in learning activities that allow them to evaluate their perspectives and link them to existing theory to form generalizations.

In learning by doing, the student is a self-regulated learner who, in addition to being reflective of his/her experiences, is guided by educational theory. Learning by doing enables the writer to read relevant literature to enrich his knowledge and perspective on the subject. It improves the writer’s skills to analyze and assess theories and concepts and draw new meanings. The principle also helps in evaluating one’s skills and performance in learning activities, which contributes to self-improvement. Moon (2004), notes that experiential learning builds “self-confidence and a willingness to take initiative” (p. 164). Therefore, ‘learning by doing’ creates a confident learner able to engage in self-directed development activities and reflective practice. ‘Learning by doing’ also gives a learner a sense of responsibility (Schon, 2001). It has enabled the writer to learn how to plan and execute projects, evaluate his performance, and utilize the feedback from others to improve himself.

Learning by doing is founded on the self-directed learning theory. According to Brockbank and McGill (1998), in self-directed learning, learners play a proactive role in controlling their learning. They develop the capacity to evaluate a task, assess individual strengths, and determine the approach they should use to achieve set goals. In addition, self-directed learners can monitor their learning strategies and reflect on the efficacy of the approaches. In learning by doing, the learner develops the intellectual habit of engaging his/her cognitive processes to promote his/her effectiveness and performance. It entails learning from one’s experiences and engaging in different strategies to achieve lifelong learning.

The Kolb model is consistent with the principle of learning by doing. Kolb (1984) underscores the importance of experiential learning in enabling a learner to “come to conclusions about his/her practice” (p. 79). The formation of conclusions or generalizations precedes the active experimentation step of the Kolb cycle. Learning experiences and existing theories inform individual perspectives and conclusions. These principles are required in self-directed learning, whereby the learner engages in self-monitoring of his/her learning strategies to attain greater effectiveness. In self-directed learning, the learners are responsible for their assessment. Thus, self-driven learners continuously review their learning strategies and outcomes to develop a routine guiding their professional development. In the learning model, the learner plans to reflect, and relate his/her learning with theory. Thus, the learning process entails constant self-evaluation and reflection.


Brockbank A., & McGill, I. (1998). Facilitating Reflective Learning in Higher Education. Buckingham: SHRE/Open University Press.

Cantor, J.A. (1995). Experiential Learning in Higher Education. Washington, D.C.: ASHE-ERIC Higher Education.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning Experience as a Source of Learning and Development. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Kornell, N., & Bjork, R. A. (2007). The Promise and Perils of Self-regulated Study. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14(2), 219–224.

Moon, J. A. (2004). A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning: Theory and Practice. New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

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