According to Kolb, this type of learning can be defined as "the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.
The word experiential essentially means that learning and development are achieved through personally determined experience and involvement, typically in group, by observation, listening, study of theory or hypothesis, or some other transfer of skills or knowledge.
The theory was proposed by psychologist David Kolb who was influenced by the work of other theorists including John Dewey, Kurt Lewin, and Jean Piaget.
A four-stage cyclical theory of learning, Kolb’s experiential learning theory is a holistic perspective that combines experience, perception, cognition, and behavior.
Kolb’s four-stage learning cycle shows how experience is translated through reflection into concepts, which in turn are used as guides for active experimentation and the choice of new experiences.
Completing this cycle leads to new experience, setting of a new cycle. The time frame for a cycle varies with the learner and scope of the learning experience. It should be noted that a learning cycle can begin at any point within the cycle. The cycle also spirals with each cycle building upon the previous one.
Kolb identified four learning styles which correspond to these stages, and highlight conditions under which learners learn better:
© Experiential Learning Activities - Concept and Principles, Martin Thompson and MTA, 2008.
Experiential learning originated from Kolb as key theorist and roots go back to Dewey; but this version developed in the 1960s focus on experience and reflection of individual learning. With changes in learning moving towards social and cognitive views, experiential learning has developed and it can be seen with resemblance with constructivist and social-cultural theories (see later section).