Everyone learns in the way that works best for them: where some prefer to devour thick books on their own, others learn by asking lots of questions. A popular model for analyzing learning styles is Kolb's learning style theory. American psychologist David Kolb distinguishes four learning styles that together form a learning cycle. But what is Kolb's learning style theory, what does the learning cycle look like, and which learning styles are there exactly? Stuvia helps you get started understanding the model so you can see for yourself which of Kolb's four learning styles suits you best.
Kolb's learning cycle
Before we find out what your learning style is, it is important to know more about the types of learning stages. This is also reflected in Kolb's learning cycle and is based on a person's personal preferences when learning:
- Do you learn actively (by doing) or reflectively (by watching)? - horizontally
- Do you learn concretely (by feeling) or abstractly (by thinking)? - vertical
Kolb's learning cycle starts at the step 'Concrete Experience' and continues like this. According to Kolb, the learning process would go best when all thinking steps from the cycle are followed. Keep in mind that everyone has their own learning style: while some learn more through application, others learn more through self-experience. The starting point, therefore, depends on your style from Kolb's four learning styles. When working together in a team, it is always advisable to look at the learning style of your teammates. This way, you ensure better and faster cooperation.
Kolb's four learning styles
Now that you know more about which learning phases there are, it is time to look at which learning styles fit them. Kolb distinguishes between four learning styles, namely: the thinker, doer, dreamer, and decision-maker. These four learning styles can be linked to the thinking steps a person exhibits when learning something new. In the diagram, this looks as follows:
Curious about the explanation? Read more about Kolb's learning styles below.
The learning style ‘thinker’ is reflective and abstract. The thinker fits the person who learns best by watching, analyzing, and drawing conclusions. You can think of someone who learns the material for an exam by following the lectures or absorbing the material after watching a video. The thinker, therefore, likes an overview composed of facts and theory.
For a thinker, the following learning methods work best:
- Summarising the material independently;
- Conducting research;
- Using analytical models
The learning style ‘doer’ is active and concrete. The doer matches a person who learns best by rolling up their sleeves and by simply trying things out. You can think of someone who prefers a practical assignment or internship, rather than learning theory. The doer, therefore, likes to do things, even if there is a risk involved.
For a doer, the following learning methods work best:
- Giving a presentation;
- Practising theory in a practical assignment or internship;
- Carrying out a creative assignment.
The learning style ‘dreamer’ matches a person who learns best by observing and imagining something. Think of someone who is sensitive and wants to take into account the feelings of different groups of people. The dreamer is rather cautious in their performance and reflects intensively afterward.
For a dreamer, the following learning methods work best:
- Brainstorming and mind mapping;
The learning style ‘decision maker’ corresponds to a person who likes to apply what they learned in practice and is often assigned final responsibility. This could be someone who often solves problems and acts in a self-assured manner. The decision-maker is a good discussion partner and likes to work with diagrams and checklists.
For a decision-maker, the following learning methods work best:
- Learning by schematic overview;
- Result-oriented assignments.
Do you prefer a theory based on motivation rather than behavior? Then take a look at Vermunt's learning styles.
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