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David Kolb published his learning styles model in 1984 from which he developed his learning style inventory.

Kolb’s experiential learning theory works on two levels: a four-stage cycle of learning and four separate learning styles.  Much of Kolb’s theory is concerned with the learner’s internal cognitive processes.

Kolb states that learning involves the acquisition of abstract concepts that can be applied flexibly in a range of situations.  In Kolb’s theory, the impetus for the development of new concepts is provided by new experiences.

“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience”

(Kolb, 1984, p. 38).

The Experiential Learning Cycle

Kolb’s experiential learning style theory is typically represented by a four-stage learning cycle in which the learner ‘touches all the bases’:

  1. Concrete Experience– (a new experience or situation is encountered, or a reinterpretation of existing experience).
  2. Reflective Observation of the new experience.(of particular importance are any inconsistencies between experience and understanding).
  3. Abstract Conceptualization(reflection gives rise to a new idea, or a modification of an existing abstract concept).
  4. Active Experimentation(the learner applies them to the world around them to see what results).


At InsideOut OSYP we use a three-stage model ‘ARO’ with three reflective ‘pauses’ to create a way of young people recognising where their opportunities for change may be. They can then choose to create a new positive learning loop by going AROund the loop or create a one off ARO to straighten and close a pattern.