How to Use Kolb's Learning Cycle in an Organization

Updated March 21, 2017

Popularly known by experiential educators as "Kolb's learning cycle," this educational tool was developed by David Kolb in 1984 to summarise four different components for experience-based learning. Due to the general nature of Kolb's learning cycle, there are multiple applications for the educational framework to be used for organisations and teaching institutions regarding any kind of organizational change, group experience, interpersonal conflict or problem solving task. Educating others regarding the big picture of Kolb's educational framework will lay the foundation for your specific organizational application.

List three or four major challenges or changes occurring within your organisation. While listing the challenges or changes, write out some observations regarding the nature of the events, who is involved, whether the challenges and changes are being met effectively or not and what learning has emerged from the event.

Interview others on the management level above, below and at your own management level using the same questioning technique from step 1 by exploring each event. As you interview others, form specific questions around the four components of Kolb's experiential learning cycle, which are defining the experience, reflecting and observing, abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation.

Assemble a group of managers after your interviews to process the experience or event together. Use a computer with a slide show program to lay some of the foundational material regarding Kolb's experiential learning cycle, perhaps by showing a slide with a picture of the cycle and a brief explanation of each stage in the cycle.

Divide the group of managers present in the room into small groups by first asking who among them considers themselves to have a preference for looking at the raw details of the way things are versus those who think more about the world of internal concepts and ideas. After dividing the larger group into two subgroups, divide each subgroup based on whether each person prefers to test and experiment their conclusions themselves or to observe their conclusions through observing others. As each subgroup divides, there should be four groups, all based on each step of the experiential learning cycle.

Assemble new groups, beginning by taking a representative from each of the four groups until there are only a few people left. Assign those who are leftover to groups and give each group the task of applying the experiential learning cycle towards processing one or more events, challenges or changes that have occurred within the organisation. Assign a note-taker and a timekeeper for each group. At the end of the processing and brainstorming session, have each group give a summary on their discussion.


Alternatively, you can also use the Kolb Learning Styles Inventory (see Resources) for assessing the most appropriate learning style for key members of your organisation. This can help to understand the thought process of each person as they work together to lead the organisation.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer with slide show program
  • LCD projector
  • Power strip
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About the Author

David McGuffin is a writer from Asheville, N.C. and began writing professionally in 2009. He has Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of North Carolina, Asheville and Montreat College in history and music, and a Bachelor of Science in outdoor education. McGuffin is recognized as an Undergraduate Research Scholar for publishing original research on postmodern music theory and analysis.