Re-interpreting Kolb’s Learning Styles

Posted on July 29, 2010


Author:  Sanjay Goel,


Kolb   identified   four main learning styles. Kolb also discovered prominent patterns of correlation of the styles with respect to domains, and also with concerned persons’ functions. Kolb also proposed ‘experiential learning cycle’ for facilitating deeper learning.   These four styles are given below:

  1. Divergent:  involves reflection on concrete experience, requires abilities of concrete experience as well as reflective observation.  This style is associated with valuing skills: relationship, helping others, and sense making. Such people have broad interests and tend to be imaginative and specialize in arts, literature, psychology, etc.  Effective communication and relation building requires this style.
  2. Convergent: involves active experimentation to test/apply abstractions, requires abilities of abstract conceptualization as well as active experimentation. This style is associated with decision skills like quantitative analysis, use of technology, and goal setting. Such people like to deal with technical rather than people related aspects, and tend to specialize in technology and medicine. Bench engineering and production requires this style.
  3. Accommodative:  involves active experimentation on concrete experiences, requires abilities of concrete experience as well as active experimentation. This style encompasses a set of competencies that can best be termed acting skills: leadership, initiative, and action. Such people tend to specialize in education, social service, sales, communication, nursing, etc. Decision making in uncertain situations requires this style. 
  4. Assimilative: involves reflection on abstractions; requires abilities of abstract conceptualization as well as reflective observation.  This style is related to thinking skills: information gathering, information analysis, and theory building. Such people tend to specialize in mathematics and physical sciences. Planning and research activities require this style.

     The commonly popular perspective is that subjects are linked with specific learning styles.  However, I believe that different styles are relatively more suitable for learning different aspects of a single subject.  Hence, an integration of these styles enhances learners’ ability to learn different aspects of any domain.



1.  Kolb David, Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1984. 

2.  Kolb Alice Y. and Kolb David A., The Kolb Learning Style – Inventory version 3.1: 2005 Technical Specifications, Experienced based learning Systems, 2005


4.   Theories that can help teachers/trainers/e-learning designers to think like educators, help students to improve their learning ability, and also help Software Developers in developing domain competence and readiness

5.   Some Theoretical Perspectives about Learning and Teaching


Keywords:   Software Engineering Education, Computing Education, Computer Science Education, Engineering Education, Information Technology Education, Information Systems Education, College Education, Higher Education, Professional Education ___________________

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