Characteristics of Experiential Learning Styles


If you’re a learning and development professional, you’ll know that the term “learning styles” has some negative associations, mainly due to one particular “approach” (I use the word loosely) that has been inaccurately connected to a particular usage of the phrase.

I have emphasize that David Kolb’s use of the term “learning styles” has nothing to do with so-called Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic (VAK) learning styles; if you’re interested in scientifically dubious, pedagogically damaging nonsense, please look elsewhere.

Now read on…

Begin again.

In the years since Kolb first devised the learning styles inventory, the definitions of the four learning styles – Diverging, Assimilating, Converging, and Accommodating (see Table 1) – have been refined through research and clinical observation (2000, p.4) in studies carried out in 1984 and 1999.

Table 1 Kolb’s Learning Styles’ Characteristics

Learning styleLearning characteristicDescription
ConvergerAbstract conceptualization + active experimentationstrong in practical application of ideas
can focus on hypo-deductive reasoning on specific problems
has narrow interests
DivergerConcrete experience + strong in imaginative abilityreflective observation
good at generating ideas and seeing things from different perspectives
interested in people
broad cultural interests
AssimilatorAbstract conceptualization + reflective observationstrong ability to create theoretical models
excels in inductive reasoning
concerned with abstract concepts rather than people
AccommodatorConcrete experience + active experimentationgreatest strength is doing things
more of a risk-taker
performs well when required to react to immediate circumstances
solves problems intuitively

Current developments in ELT have led Kolb and his colleagues at Experience Based Learning Systems, Inc. to designate second- and third-order learning styles (pp.23-24) facilitating the creation of a learning styles matrix, which Kolb et alia believe assists in understanding learning

at a deeper and more comprehensive level than previously, and provides guidance for applications to help people improve their learning, and designing better processes in education and development… in organizations and society.

(2000, p.28)




Boyatzis, R. E. Kolb, D. A. & Mainemelis, C. (2000) Experiential Learning Theory: Previous Research and New Directions. [Internet] IN: Sternberg, R. J. & Zhang, L. F. (Eds.). Perspectives on cognitive, learning, and thinking styles. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, Available from: http://www.learningfromexperience.com/images/uploads/
[Accessed 23rd March 2010]

Kolb, D. A. (2006) Learning Styles Matrix diagram. [Internet] Available from: http://www.businessballs.com/freepdfmaterials/
[Accessed 8th March 2017]


  1. Hi Michael

    Great blog. Interesting that my search for ELT – English Language Teaching – brought me to your site. My perspective is on how best to teach English communication skills in the workplace – see a href=”http://englishfortheworkplace.blogspot.com/>English for the Workplace. Experiential learning has always played an important part in workplace language training.

    Would you mind if I included your blog on my blogroll? I think there’s a lot in it which my readers would find useful.

    Many thanks


    • Thanks for taking the time to get in touch, Evan; I guess that’s the power of the internet! Feel free to add my link to your blog roll.

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