Experiential Learning

As the name suggests, experiential learning involves learning from experience. 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. According to Kolb, this type of learning can be defined as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combinations of grasping and transforming experience.”

In the experiential model, Kolb described two different ways of grasping experience: Concrete Experience and Abstract Conceptualization. He also identified two ways of transforming experience: Reflective Observation and Active Experimentation. These four modes of learning are often portrayed as a cycle.

According to Kolb, concrete experience provides the information that serves as a basis for reflection. From these reflections, we assimilate the information and form abstract concepts. We then use these concepts to develop new theories about the world, which we then actively test. Through the testing of our ideas, we once again gather information through experience, cycling back to the beginning of the process.


Learning that is considered “experiential” contain all the following elements:

1. Reflection, critical analysis and synthesis
2. Opportunities for students to take initiative, make decisions, and be accountable for the results
3. Opportunities for students to engage intellectually, creatively, emotionally, socially, or physically
4. A designed learning experience that includes the possibility to learn from natural consequences, mistakes, and successes

(From University of Colorado Experiential Learning Centre)