Experience-based Learning…and Teaching​

Experiential Learning Theory (ELT), as the name suggests, puts experience in the main role when considering learning and development.

Experiential Learning Theory defines learning as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience.” (Kolb, 1984, p.41)

Grasping experience is done through Concrete Experience: CE (actually having an experience) and Abstract Conceptualization: AC (thinking about what you experienced). The transformation comes from Reflective Observation: RO and Active Experimentation: AE; here our thoughts and reflections get transferred to new experiences.





As educators, the ELT believes that our job is to help learners maximize learning by moving through the four stages of the cycle.  In fact, highly successful educators often “teach around the learning circle” and the various roles they take on help to facilitate the transition from one learning mode to another.   This constant movement creates a learning spiral where experience is reflected upon, and the new experience becomes “richer, broader, and deeper”.  These reflections are carried into further explorations and the transfer into new experiences- a continuing spiral of learning.  Understandings and new experiences become more sophisticated, and actions become more effective as the spiral continues.

Promoting a person’s learning is a complex task requiring attention to mulitple competing demands- the needs and interests of the learner and knowledge of the subject matter, understanding the deeper meaning and implications of knowledge and its practical application to the learner’s life challenges.  As teachers, coaches, leaders, parents, and friends, we often find ourselves facing these challenges of education.

The Kolb Educator Role Profile, 2013


Kolb Educator Role Profile



When I saw my profile (complete your own questionnaire to get your profile here), I was satisfied with my survey results:

my educator profile

They match what I see as my role in the classroom: facilitator and coach.  I know my role as an expert comes out occasionally, but do I want to be an evaluator?  How can I evaluate how well individuals are accepting and dealing with hearing loss?

Becoming aware of the different educational roles you can adopt will help you design courses and curricula that maximize student learning by helping them develop a rich array of learning strategies they would not have been able to obtain with a single teaching approach.

The Kolb Educator Role Profile, 2016

I have a new incentive to ‘teach through the cycles’ and not be complacent in my roles as facilitator and coach.  Here are some ideas of how I might strengthen my roles of expert and evaluator:

  • remember that learning happens best when learners integrate new concepts into their existing understanding.  It is my job to review past knowledge and help make those connections to the new experiences with them.
  • encourage learners to analyze and build models and to establish their own theories.  I can ask my learners: What have you tried?  What worked?  What can you change?
  • ask them to reflect on their experiences so they can organize their thoughts.  I will suggest they keep a journal or blog.
  • assist learners in creating a plan for action or developing learning goals.  What can you do next?  What kind of communication situation will you be encountering?  How can you plan ahead by thinking about the factors that affect your communication: Environment, Speaker, Listener, and Message?
  • measure learner performance against established criteria and provide feedback.  I am a content expert, and as such can provide additional ideas and potential successes and downfalls of their ideas for effective communication.

The ELT provides a good framework for the learning and teaching that happens in the Speechreading course.




Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Additional sites to explore:




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