IDEAL: David Kolb’s Cycle of Experiential Learning

David Kolb’s 4 Stages of Experiential Learning

In his book, “Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development,” David Kolb proposed the ELT or Experiential Learning Theory, which says that experiences are the source of all learning. Kolb presents four learning stages (compiled as the ELM or the Experiential Learning Model) as follows:

  • Concrete Experience
  • Reflective Observation
  • Abstract Conceptualization
  • Active Experimentation

Before we look at each stage in detail, let us look at Kolb’s Cycle with a fresh pair of round and curious eyes – those that belong to Cupcake.


Cupcake goes through the four stages of learning proposed by David Kolb as he finds his treats.

In this article meet Sonia (the Novice Learner) and Monica (the Expert/Experienced Learner) and see how two different learners go through the four learning stages.

The Novice Learner Sonia experiences the four stages of Kolb's Cycle

The Expert Learner Monica experiences the four stages of Kolb's Cycle

The PDF of the article also includes the Four Learner Types proposed by David Kolb and differentiates his Learner Types model from that proposed by Peter Honey and Alan Mumford. You can download the PDF here or you can choose to browse through the other articles and infographics available for download in our evolving Resource Center.