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Differences Between Gibbs and Kolb Cycles

Updated April 17, 2017

The Kolb Cycle was developed to enable educators to review their own teaching to promote continuous development. The Gibbs Cycle was created a few years later and is basically an expanded, more detailed version of the Kolb Cycle. Referring to the Kolb Cycle, Graham Gibbs, a professor at the University of Oxford, argued: "It is not enough just to do, and neither is it enough just to think. Nor is it enough simply to do and think. Learning from experience must involve linking the doing and the thinking."

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Date Published

The Kolb Cycle was published before the Gibbs Cycle. In 1984, David A. Kolb published his conception in "Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development," while the Gibbs Cycle was published in the article "Learning by Doing: a Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods" in 1988. Gibbs developed his cycle partly based on the Kolb Cycle.


The Kolb Cycle is based on four stages: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation and planning active experimentation. The Gibbs Cycle is based on six stages: description of events, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion and action plan.

John Heron, author of "Feelings and Personhood: Psychology in Another Key," criticises the Kolb Cycle for being too narrow and underdeveloped. The Gibbs Cycle introduces more steps to try to remedy this.

Gibbs Builds on Kolb

While the Kolb Cycle can be applied to educational settings, the Gibbs Cycle develops the experiential learning theory further by relating teaching methods to Kolb's model. As the University of Gloucestershire points out, in the conceptualisation and experimentation stages, Gibbs suggests action plans and learning contracts. In the experience and reflection stages, he includes discussions and peer- and self-assessment.


Both cycles were developed to be able to be used in any learning situation. The Gibbs Cycle, however, is more often used by the health-care industry. As both cycles cover the same basic steps (experience, reflection and planning), either model can be used in any learning experience, but because the Gibbs Cycle includes more steps that require more effort, the Gibbs Cycle may be better for teaching large groups of people to learn from their experiences.

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About the Author

Kyle Fiechter began writing professionally in 2010. Websites in which his writing has appeared include eHow and LIVESTRONG.COM. He has a Bachelor of Science in neurobiology and physiology from Purdue University. Fiechter is a photographer and designer, and he has video production experience.

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