You are now in the main content area

Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle

In 1984, Social Psychologist and adult educator David Kolb published the Experiential Learning Theory, which states that “learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience” (Kolb, 1984, p. 41).

Grasping experience refers to taking in information that occurs in 'Concrete Experience' and 'Abstract Conceptualization' stages. Transforming experience refers to how individuals interpret and act on that information in 'Reflective Observation' and 'Active Experimentation' stages.

Kolb’s EL model posits that learning is a 4-stage process, and in 2014 Kolb added information about the various roles that educators assume within the four stages.

Kolb’s 4-Stage Process

Stage Definition
Concrete Experience (CE) The educator is a facilitator. Immediate or concrete experiences occur, and they are the basis for observations and reflections.
Reflective Observation (RO) The educator is the subject matter expert, leading the reflection by making relevant texts and lectures available, creating space and a framework for systematic analysis through reflective practice.
Abstract Conceptualization (AC) Reflections are assimilated and distilled into abstract concepts from which new implications for action can be drawn. The teacher is the standard-setter and evaluator, helping learners master the application of knowledge and skill in order to meet performance requirements.
Active Experimentation (AE) These implications can be actively tested and guide learners in creating new experiences during AE. Here, the educator is a coach helping learners apply knowledge to achieve their goals in their learning context.


Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning : experience as the source of learning and development . Prentice-Hall.