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In his publications - notably his 1984 book 'Experiential Learning: Experience As The Source Of Learning And Development' Kolb acknowledges the early work on experiential learning by others in the 1900's, including Rogers, Jung, and Piaget. The model gave rise to related terms such as Kolb's experiential learning theory (ELT), and Kolb's learning styles inventory (LSI).Kolb says that ideally (and by inference not always) this process represents a learning cycle or spiral where the learner 'touches all the bases', ie., a cycle of experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting.
That said, everyone responds to and needs the stimulus of all types of learning styles to one extent or another - it's a matter of using emphasis that fits best with the given situation and a person's learning style preferences.
(This interpretation was amended and revised March 2006) Kolb explains that different people naturally prefer a certain single different learning style.
Various factors influence a person's preferred style: notably in his experiential learning theory model (ELT) Kolb defined three stages of a person's development, and suggests that our propensity to reconcile and successfully integrate the four different learning styles improves as we mature through our development stages.
The development stages that Kolb identified are: Whatever influences the choice of style, the learning style preference itself is actually the product of two pairs of variables, or two separate 'choices' that we make, which Kolb presented as lines of axis, each with 'conflicting' modes at either end: Concrete Experience - CE (feeling) -----V-----Abstract Conceptualization - AC (thinking) Active Experimentation - AE (doing)-----V----- Reflective Observation - RO (watching) A typical presentation of Kolb's two continuums is that the east-west axis is called the Processing Continuum (how we approach a task), and the north-south axis is called the Perception Continuum (our emotional response, or how we think or feel about it).
These learning styles are the combination of two lines of axis (continuums) each formed between what Kolb calls 'dialectically related modes' of 'grasping experience' (doing or watching), and 'transforming experience' (feeling or thinking): The word 'dialectically' is not widely understood, and yet carries an essential meaning, namely 'conflicting' (its ancient Greek root means 'debate' - and I thank P Stern for helping clarify this precise meaning).